Gooey personal details alert! See also: Alicorn's Polyhacking.

Years ago, my first girlfriend (let's call her 'Alice') ran into her ex-boyfriend at a coffee shop. They traded anecdotes, felt connected, a spark of intimacy...

And then she left the coffee shop, quickly.

Later she explained: "You have my heart now, Luke."

I felt proud, but even Luke2005 also felt a twinge of "the universe is suboptimal," because Alice hadn't been able to engage that connection any further. The cultural scripts defining our relationship said that only one man owned her heart. But surely that wasn't optimal for producing utilons?

This is an account of some lessons in rationality that I learned during my journeys in romance.* I haven't been very rational in my relationships until recently, but in retrospect I learned a fair bit about rationality from the failures resulting from my irrationality in past relationships.

Early lessons included realizations like the one above — that I wasn't happy with the standard cultural scripts. I hadn't really noticed the cultural scripts up until that point. I was a victim of cached thoughts and a cached self.

Rationality Lesson: Until you explicitly notice the cached rules for what you're doing, you won't start thinking of them as something to be optimized. Ask yourself: Which parts of romance do you currently think of as subjects of optimization? What else should you be optimizing?


Gather data

At the time, I didn't know how to optimize. I decided I needed data. How did relationships work? How did women work? How did attraction work? The value of information was high, so I decided to become a social psychology nerd. I began to spend less time with Alice so I could spend more time studying.

This wasn't easy. She and I had connected in some pretty intimate ways, including a simultaneous deconversion from fundamentalist Christianity. But in the end my studies paid off. Moreover, my studies in personality and relationship styles helped me to realize that I (and therefore she) would have been miserable if I had decided to pursue marriage with her (or anyone at the time). Now that is valuable information to have!

Rationality Lesson: Respond to the value of information. Once you notice you might be running in the wrong direction, don't keep going that way just because you've got momentum. Stop a moment, and invest some energy in the thoughts or information you've now realized is valuable because it might change your policies, i.e., figuring out which direction to go.


Sanity-check yourself

Before long, Alice was always pushing me to spend more time with her, and I was always pushing to spend more time studying psychology. By then I knew I couldn't give her what she wanted: marriage.

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked. I thought she would appreciate this because she had previously expressed admiration for detailed honesty. Now I realize that there's hardly a more damaging way to break up with someone. She asked that I kindly never speak to her again, and I can't blame her.

This gives you some idea of just how incompetent I was, at the time. I had some idea of how incompetent I was, but not enough of one to avoid badly wounding somebody I loved.

Rationality Lesson: Know your fields of incompetence. If you suspect you may be incompetent, sanity-check yourself by asking others for advice, or by Googling. (E.g. "how to break up with your girlfriend nicely", or "how to not die on a motorcycle" or whatever.)



During the next couple years, I spent no time in (what would have been) sub-par relationships, and instead invested that time optimizing for better relationships in the future. Which meant I was celibate.

Neither Intimate Relationships nor Handbook of Relationship Initiation existed at the time, but I still learned quite a bit from books like The Red Queen and The Moral Animal. I experienced a long series of 'Aha!' moments, like:

  • "Aha! Body language and fashion matter because they communicate large packets of information about me at light speed, and are harder to fake than words."
  • "Aha! Women want men to be better at making them laugh and feel good and get aroused and not be creeped out. They want men to be as purposefully skilled at flirting and social awareness as they are. Many a young woman is tired of running into men whom they could be attracted to except for the fact that he doesn't know how to have a fun conversation, doesn't know how to create arousal in her, and doesn't know how to lead her smoothly from flirting to great sex."
  • "Aha! When women say "Be yourself," they mean "Don't be fake; be uniquely you." But they don't mean "Just keep acting and talking the awkward way you do now because you haven't learned the skills required to be the best man you can be."

Within a few months, I had more dating-relevant head knowledge than any guy I knew.

Lesson: Use scholarship. Especially if you can do it efficiently, scholarship is a quick and cheap way to gain a certain class of experience points.


Just try it / just test yourself

Scholarship was warm and comfy, so I stayed in scholar mode for too long. I hit diminishing returns in what books could teach me. Every book on dating skills told me to go talk to women, but I thought I needed a completed decision tree first: What if she does this? What if she says that? I won't know what to do if I don't have a plan! I should read 10 more books, so I know how to handle every contingency.

The dating books told me I would think that, but I told myself I was unusually analytical, and could actually benefit from completing the decision tree in advance of actually talking to women.

The dating books told me I would think that, too, and that it was just a rationalization. Really, I was just nervous about the blows my ego would receive from newbie mistakes.

Rationality Lesson: Be especially suspicious of rationalizations for not obeying the empiricist rules "try it and see what happens" or "test yourself to see what happens" or "get some concrete experience on the ground". Think of the cost of time happening as a result of rationalizing. Consider the opportunities you are missing if you don't just realize you're wrong right now and change course. How many months or years will your life be less awesome as a result? How many opportunities will you miss while you're still (kinda) young?


Use science, and maybe drugs

The dating books told me to swallow my fear and talk to women. I couldn't swallow my fear, so I tried swallowing brandy instead. That worked.

So I went out and talked to women, mostly at coffee shops or on the street. I learned all kinds of interesting details I hadn't learned in the books about what makes an interaction fun for most women:

  • Keep up the emotional momentum. Don't stay in the same stage of the conversation (rapport, storytelling, self-disclosure, etc.) for very long.
  • Almost every gesture or line is improved by adding a big smile.
  • "Hi. I've gotta run, but I think you're cute so we should grab a coffee sometime" totally works — as long as the other person is already attracted because my body language, fashion, and other signals have been optimized.

After a while, I could talk to women even without the brandy. And a little after that, I had my first one-night stand, which was great because it was exactly what she and I wanted.

But as time passed I was surprised by how much I didn't enjoy casual flings. I didn't feel engaged when I didn't know and didn't have much in common with the girl in my bed. I had gone in thinking all I wanted was sex, but it turned out that I wanted connection to another person. (And sex.)

Rationality Lesson: Use empiricism and do-it-yourself science. Just try things. No, seriously.


Self-modify to succeed

By this time my misgivings about the idea of "owning" another's sexuality had led me to adopt a polyamorous mindset for myself. (I saw many other people apparently happy with monogamy, but it wasn't for me.) But if I was going to be polyamorous, I needed to deprogram my sexual jealousy, which sounded daunting. Sexual jealousy was hard-wired into me by evolution, right?

It turned out to be easier than I had predicted. Tactics that helped me destroy my capacity for sexual jealousy include:

  • Whenever I noticed sexual jealousy in myself, I brought to mind my moral objections to the idea of owning another's sexuality.
  • I thought in terms of sexual abundance, not sexual scarcity. When I realized there were thousands of other nearby women I could date, I didn't need to be so needy for any particular girl.
  • Mentally, I continually associated 'jealousy' with 'immaturity' and 'neediness' and other concepts that have negative affect for me.

This lack of sexual jealousy came in handy when I later dated a polyamorous girl who was already dating two of my friends.

Rationality Lesson: Have a sense that more is possible. Know that you haven't yet reached the limits of self-modification. Try things. Let your map of what is possible be constrained by evidence, not by popular opinion.



There might have been a learning curve, but by golly, at the end of all that DIY science and rationality training and scholarship I'm much more romantically capable, I'm free to take up relationships when I want, I know fashion well enough to teach it at rationality camps, and I can build rapport with almost anyone. My hair looks good and I'm happy.

If you're a nerd-at-heart like me, I highly recommend becoming a nerd about romance, so long as you read the right nerd books and you know the nerd rule about being empirical. Rationality is for winning.



* My thanks to everyone who commented on earlier drafts of this post. Here are the biggest changes I made:

  • Some said that while it's okay to be analytic about relationships, it would help the tone of the post if it was clear I was interacting with people as people, too. So I added more of that.
  • Some thought I implied that everyone could or should be polyamorous, which is not something I intended or believe. I've made that clearer now.
  • Robert Lumley provided some detailed comments that I updated in response to.
  • I also made use of some suggestions made by HughRistik.
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So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked.

This is probably the single funniest bit in your backstory.


It reads like a scene from The Big Bang Theory, and it is difficult to imagine that anyone would ever actually do that - till I remember doing similarly bad+stupid things.

Yeah, that was really, really bad. I'd like to take that one back, for sure.

Why? Did subsequent evo-psych research disprove the selection for those features?

People who get dumped want to know their partners' reasons for breaking up, not the biological etiology of those reasons. They are very likely to take lengthy discourses into the latter as insensitive, obfuscatory deflections (and probably correctly so).

They are very likely to take lengthy discourses into the latter as insensitive, obfuscatory deflections (and probably correctly so).

I would call the 'real reasons' typically given to be obfuscatory deflections. People seldom know the actual reasons for why they want to break up. More often they are explicitly aware of one of the downstream effects of the actual reason.

Which is not to say that descriptions of the biological eitology are not also obfuscatory deflections. Most answers to this question will be! In fact, answers to this question will usually be obfuscatory deflections because not to do so will necessarily be 'insensitive'.

Another reason for not giving the real reasons is that sorting that kind of thing out is work and telling the truth about oneself is an offer of intimacy. If you're breaking up with someone, you may not want to do either one.

I would call the 'real reasons' typically given to be obfuscatory deflections. People seldom know the actual reasons for why they want to break up. More often they are explicitly aware of one of the downstream effects of the actual reason.

I'm sure that's the case. But my point was that if the real reason for the break-up was "I want to be with someone who possesses quality X that you lack," then tacking on "...because evolution made me that way" does not render the reason more real or add an additional, separate reason; it just renders the one reason better explained in a mostly irrelevant way.

It makes the reason much more of an attack-- it's not just "I find [feature] unattractive", it's "people in general are likely to find [feature] unattractive, and this is to the advantage of the human race".

In spite of this, piling up the karma on this comment makes me feel better about LW. When no one else had made this point on the original post, and then the points were slow to show up on this comment, I was beginning to wonder about the cluefulness level. I haven't felt this way about any of my other comments. I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't) is a book about women and shame, with a little about men. I'd been wondering why such a high proportion of insults (to both men and women) are about sexual attractiveness, but the book points out that the most stinging insults are about failure to fulfill gender expectations. At the time, I hadn't thought about men being accused of homosexuality, but that fits the pattern from the book. If I were to get evolutionary about this, cutting down one's rivals' mating potential would make sense as a fundamental attack. On the other hand, I don't think the author was collecting cross cultural material, so I don't know what insults/shame looks like in cultures where religious prejudice is a larger factor. None of this is intended as an attack on lukeprog (2007)-- it's clear he had no idea what he was doing. My guess is that he was trying to be less insulting by making the breakup less personal.
I'm not an expert on this by any means, but insult content varies quite a bit across cultures. Dutch profanity is largely medical, for example; kankerlijer ("cancer-sufferer") is very strong. I've heard speculation that this is due to the largely urban landscape that Dutch evolved in, where being a vector of infection (never mind that most causes of cancer aren't infectious) meant being a clear danger to the community. So religious insults seem plausible in any culture that takes religion especially seriously. Spanish profanity has retained a lot of religious content; I don't know much about its evolution, but it could plausibly be related to Spanish-speaking culture's historically strong Catholicism.
Thanks-- the Dutch sickness insults are amazing by American standards. If it was just about fear of infection, then all urban cultures would have that sort of insult.
Yeah, it does have the ring of a Just-So story, doesn't it? I haven't heard any other explanations yet, though.
My suggestion of random factors means that there's no detailed explanation possible, except for history which is almost certainly based in spoken words and emotional reactions and therefore not available. I believe that it's the tone which makes an insult. Insult is about lowering status, and is basically a group effect-- a good insult implies not just likelihood of ongoing attack from that person, but that the attacks will deservedly continue from other people. It seems to me that cultures are probably constrained to ranges by various issues (number of people, technology, resources), but those ranges are huge compared to the particular things cultures do, and there's little point in predicting. American slang will probably generate new words for very good and very bad, but this doesn't mean that which words are used for very good and very bad has an interesting or predictable pattern. The words will probably be short, but I doubt you can get much farther than that. I wonder whether insults could be used to track patterns of obligatory kindness-- if some feature is not used as grounds for insult, could it mean that it's a area which is culturally inhibited from attack. In other words, I'm still shocked at using having cancer as a generic insult.
It's worth noting that not every piece of social interaction has a non-trivial influence from evolutionary psychology. Sometimes an insult is just an insult...
Of all the forms of communication over which to trivialize evolutionary psychology you chose insults? Knowing how, when and who to insult is one of the most critical instincts evolutionary psychology provided us!
And the exact specific insults chosen is pretty darn culture-bound. "Stupid melon" is only a serious insult in Chinese. (To clarify: I am talking about the semantics of the words chosen as insults, not the behavior of socially insulting another for whatever reason. I do not think the specific words common in current English parlance as insults by a specific social group can be meaningfully applied to humanity as a whole)
I'm more dubious about ev psych than most here, I think. It wouldn't surprise me if there is random history affecting which insults are salient in various societies, rather than some sort of optimization. The fact that people can insult each other so easily may well have some evolutionary history. Any theories about why people are so apt to remember insults for years?
I'm a bit of a polyglot who's sampled broadly from some very, very different language families and that rings true. You can be insulting in Chinook Wawa or Ojibwe (speaking disrespectfully or very bluntly), but cognates for most familiar English swears are either lacking altogether or of very recent coinage. The closest you'd get to everyday, non-personal swearing in Chinook Wawa sort of means "eeeewww"; the word "bad" could be a matter-of-fact descriptor, a vaguely-literal or nonliteral grammatical particle, or just a very blunt statement more impolite than anything. Chinese has quite a varied vocabulary for profanity and insults, but the literal translations would almost sound cutesy to foreigners (傻瓜, "sha3gua1" in Mandarin, means "stupid melon" but has about as much social bite as "idiot!" or "dumbass!"). Japanese has a lot of profane words, except that it's much easier to be insulting without actually using any of them and some of the ones whose literal translation would be profane or impolite in English are used with much less weight. This is true of some dialects of Chinese too (there's a phrase that probably best translates as "holy fuck" in both Chinese and Japanese but isn't nearly as impolite as its English equivalent, although it's not exactly good manners either.)

Examining what Lukeprog wrote...

Before long, Alice was always pushing me to spend more time with her, and I was always pushing to spend more time studying psychology. By then I knew I couldn't give her what she wanted: marriage.

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked. I thought she would appreciate this because she had previously expressed admiration for detailed honesty.....

...his stated reason doesn't appear to match the paragraph that preceded it all (I realize that we are probably gettting a very condensed version of the conversation, but hopefully it didn't elide something this important).

Were I in the lady's position, I'd wonder why I only became physically unsuitable after I started seeking a legally recognized commitment. Unless the feature Lukeprog found unattractive was "wants committed pair-bonding," the explanation does not appear to fit the circumstances at all. This doesn't seem like a case of someone unable to deal with "radical honesty;" it seems like a case of someone being pissed off at what comes across as dishonesty.

The real harm, in my eyes, is because she will likely generalize that because evolution made you that way it made all men that way, which is likely not true. Actually it's patently untrue for any example I can think of.

I don't see any evidence that suggests that she would draw any conclusion about evolution from a breakup like that. Is that in the text or your own conclusion? (and I must add that though I didn't write a 20 page document for my first breakup, I arguably did no better.)
Well it's almost definitional. If evolutionary selection pressures were extreme enough to actually make lukeprog that way, then all men are that way. If evolution did it to him, then it did it to everyone. Evolution doesn't discriminate. What's more likely is that evolution didn't actually make him that way, but societal pressures did. But that's setting aside the fact that most people tend to wildly anthropomorphize evolution...

I wouldn't expect lukeprog to bring up evolution in that context unless he believed that most men were like him.

Well it's almost definitional. If evolutionary selection pressures were extreme enough to actually make lukeprog that way, then all men are that way.

This does not follow. There are many species where different members have evolved different mating strategies. For a really neat example see this lizard. Males have evolved three different strategies that are in a rock-paper-scissors relationship to each other.

It seems clear though, that your example is the exception and not the rule. There is no reason that evolution would have made lukeprog different from other males, given that he was human.
Actually, variable mating strategies are darn common for animals. Sometimes they represent stable lifepaths with whole species populations grouped not just by sex, but by which members of a given sex use which strategy (cleaner wrasses come to mind); other species vary thejr strategies based on things like food availability, or in different parts of their geographical range, or in different sub-populations.
I can give lots of other species that have stable equilibria with multiple mating strategies. There's also a fair number of game theory scenarios where the Nash equilibria involve similar mixed strategies. These aren't that uncommon in nature. The lizard example is just one of the weirder examples. This is clearly way too common for it to be labeled as "almost definitional".
Can you clarify what the harm is, in her thinking 'just like a man' Or what her thinking would actually be, if that is not what you're suggesting? And for the record, I killed that first relationship by telling my BF that I wasn't sure I loved him anymore, but that I didn't actually want to break up. Which was totally true, and had predictable results. I turned a normal healthy and cute math-classics major/computer science nerd into a clingy and demanding person, because I didn't understand why I wasn't happier with myself. He had no recourse to any pat generalizations, like 'just like a woman'.

I would think that her thinking would be that if evolution made lukeprog not like me because of xyz, then it would make all men not like me because of that. I must not be a likeable person.

That would be bad.

Well, I'm no expert on how women think, but there is no thought control. This breakup story is so unusual in the amount of rational preparation for it, I'm sure that I would be able to see that most other men are not much like lukeprog, on that point if no other. I am not sure there is any way to convince someone you do not want to date (at all / any longer) that they are likeable, except by proving it over time.
Most men are not like lukeprog on that point, certainly. However, lukeprog was not asserting that most men were like him on that point. He was asserting that evolution had contributed for his not liking her for reasons X, Y, and Z. All people are closely enough related that if that were true, then there would be a good chance that evolution had done similarly for other men. So, to the degree that she believed him, the conclusion that it likely applied to other men would follow more strongly than without his assertion.
You make a good point, but I doubt she believed his assertion for long, if at all. Though it probably offended her. I am trying to suggest that lukeprog's assertions about why he didn't feel like he liked her the right amount any more are totally irrelevant to her reaction. Their accuracy is, in fact, arguable. Evolution, as it applies to men, suggests that just often enough, some of them will try to impregnate someone. Cross-cultural standards of physical beauty in women suggest who most men are most likely to try to approach. This is statistical. "Who wants to date ME" is personal, and there is no proof other than experience. The fact that he didn't feel like he liked her the right amount to date her anymore is the unarguable point, and there is no way of getting around that. She sounds like a normal girl and probably had a normal amount of disappointment over the breakup, and maybe an above-average amount of resentment at the suggestion that she might not be as evolutionarily attractive as the next girl.
He should have started with the mind projection fallacy.

Luke will never be able to break up with any future girlfriends because it would require too many preliminaries before he could even start the sequence which would explain why they should break up.

...says the only person who required more buildup to discuss metaethics than I did.

I have not tired of these jokes, but: actually, 'breaking up' rationalist-to-rationalist is pretty easy and painless in my (limited) experience.

And the more time he spends with more and more girlfriends the more he will learn about relationships and the harder it will be for him to break up with them. It's pretty much an Unfriendly and Artificial Breakup Conversation FOOM.
Expecting short inferential distances then.
Humans have emotions and don't think rationally by default. Most people do not like to feel inadequate, though how they respond to that feeling varies a great deal. Most people in a relationship also don't like to feel they were rejected sexually over some perceived inadequacy. So when a mate gives them a 20-page lecture on their failures to hold their attraction and concludes by rejecting them as a sex partner, it's probably not vanishingly far from the null hypothesis that the person is going to get upset...

I'm sure that's the case. But my point was that if the real reason for the break-up was "I want to be with someone who possesses quality X that you lack," then tacking on "...because evolution made me that way" does not render the reason more real or add an additional, separate reason; it just renders the one reason better explained in a mostly irrelevant way.

It is rather irrelevant. Even crockers rules doesn't take you as far as giving evolutionary psychology explanations. So saying "because you have small breasts" is grossly insensitive and saying "because you have small breasts and I am biologically ... signalling ... etc" is grossly insensitive and also irrelevant, nerdy and kind of awkward.

Agreed that the ev-psych was bad. But...

If your true and actual reason for breaking up with someone is that her breasts are too small, consider that (a) saying "It was because you were too clingy" may cause them to try and mess with an aspect of their personality that doesn't even need fixing, and (b) total silence, which you may fondly imagine to be mercy, may result in her frantically imagining dozens of possible flaws all of which she tries desperately to correct, just on the off-chance it was that one. As opposed to, say, looking for a guy who's into smaller breasts next time.

Maybe I'm just being inordinately naive, but telling someone honestly, softly, and believably, your true reason for rejecting them, seems like it really should have certain advantages for them, if not for you. I mean, compared to either silence or lying. Calling it "grossly insensitive" is too quick a rejection of the possibility of telling a truth.

I think you're assuming too rational a partner.

If you're honest and say, "Your breasts are too small," the person in question might seek a guy who likes smaller breasts next time. Or she might fall into a deep self-loathing in which she believes that her body is imperfect and nobody could be attracted to her, thus sabotaging her own future potential relationships. Or she could run out and get breast implants, even though she doesn't really want them, in hopes that you / other future guys will find her more attractive--which is much more expensive and possibly less rewarding than simply finding people who like small breasts.

In my view it's better to keep it vague. Guessing over dozens of possible flaws is likely to be less harmful than obsessing over one particular flaw, since it's difficult to figure out / change whatever possible flaw you think may exist.

(Disclosure: I have been dumped once and did the dumping once. The dumper kept it vague; I kept it specific but lied. I can't judge how keeping it specific while lying worked, since the person in question was bipolar and therefore not at all a normal test subject. I can judge how keeping it vague went: I obsessed over dozens of flaws for a while, until I found other people who were interested, at which point I decided it was probably just a bad match and nothing really to do with absolute flaws at all. I do not know how a completely honest dumping pans out.)

In which case the honest answer would clearly have in fact been "you are too psychologically unstable, needy and difficult to communicate with honestly".
That answer isn't feasible-- it's based on behaviors after the breakup, so they can't be the cause of the breakup, even if they were present (perhaps in less extreme form) before the breakup. Also, it's at least possible that the man would have tolerated the same difficult behavior from a woman with larger breasts-- he may have been accurate about his preferences. What about being accurate about difficult behaviors which are at least theoretically easier to change than basic body features? I know a woman whose husband had been taking her office supplies, leaving her to think that her memory was seriously erratic. When she found her office supplies in her desk and confronted him about it, he told her off for violating his privacy. I don't know whether she mentioned this during the breakup, but would it have been a good idea to do so?
That's called gaslighting.
I haven't seen a wikipedia article look more like it belongs on tvtropes!
TVTropes has its own page on the subject.
Disagree, it is most certainly feasible - and something I would consider a rather wise reason to break up with someone. Being in a position where you can do enormous amounts of permanent psychological damage to someone by telling them they have small breasts is not a good place to be. Psychological vulnerability insecurity and a tendency toward self loathing are traits of a person (in the medium term) and are not impossible to predict. When you are breaking up with someone for this reason you are not obliged to wait until they actually spiral into self loathing so you can justify your decision. The very decision to refrain from telling someone that you are breaking up with them because they have small breasts is based off their predicted response. So it is clearly just as possible to make the same prediction and have it influence your decision to break up with them because of their psychological fragility.
That sounds like a very good idea all else being equal. Focusing on what you can change is usually the best strategy and providing others with information about what they can change is probably going to be more useful. Wow, that guy is a dick! I don't see anything in it for her and nor do I see why she should feel any need to do things for his benefit. Do kind things for people who aren't dicks. My response in that situation would be to make no particularly extravagant reaction at the time of the incident, calmly make all the relevant preparations such as hiring a divorce lawyer and finding another place to live then break up via having someone else serve him a divorce notice. But I think most other people may be a little less extravagant in their responses (and less practical). My strategy when breaking up with a spouse for reasons like their diminished attractiveness or excessive more justifiable conflict would be entirely different and much more social.
If he's capable of eventually acquiring a clue, this is also kindness to the people he'll be dealing with later on. I don't know whether the cost to her is worth the possible benefit.
That's a very big one for me. Someone who can't handle the truth is not someone for me.

true reason for rejecting them

This usually makes little sense, particularly for someone one was attracted to for a while.

It's almost never true that for someone whose breasts one once found sufficient, her breasts would be a deal breaker, and no woman would be attractive with similar breasts regardless of her personality, face, legs, etc.

The problem is that the character sheet was filled out with mostly low die rolls, not that stat X is too low.

ETA: asking what the "true reason" for a breakup was is like asking what the "true reason" for a war, such as the Iraq War, was. Was it possible WMD? Past links to Al-Qaida? Possible future links to Al-Qaida? Past human rights abuses such as mass torture and murder? Aquiring influence over oil? Creating a pro-western regime? Creating a democratic regime? Perceived divine guidance during Bush's praying?

The first test to figure out if someone is more rationalist than emotional about the Iraq war to ask them what the "true reason" for the invasion was and see if they right that wrong question. It's just as much the wrong question in this context as that one.

Calling it "grossly insensitive" is too quick a rejection of the possibility of telling a truth.

I agree.

It is more or less true of people who gain a significant amount of status without a commensurate improvement in the status of their partner. Standards change. Sure, it isn't going to be the only reason but it can certainly be significant enough to single out.
In an episode of Seinfeld, Elaine was dating a man because she wanted to be dating a doctor. She then finds out that he never managed to pass his licensing exams and therefore couldn't yet practice medicine. After she helps him pass, he dumps her, saying this: Which illustrates the point rather nicely.
The principle of no aspect being the cause of too low value still applies. How many guys are out of Morena Baccarin's league because her breasts are small? She has everything else going for her so her weakest attribute is compensated for. To call the weakest attribute of someone you reject the "true reason" makes sense only if it is a lone sufficient condition, which it probably won't be even for someone who you no longer want to be with because you think you can do better.
A complementary position is that just because something is 'grossly insensitive' doesn't mean it isn't both a kindness and exactly the right thing to do. Humans learn from unpleasant things. Especially targeted unpleasant things. So 'got to be cruel to be kind' often applies. Tangent: The tricky thing is that often "because you were too clingy" will technically be the real reason, just not the most useful part of the causal chain to select. If she had bigger breasts that will change both how 'clingy' any given behavior seems and how much attraction to her you exhibit which in turn influences how clingy she is likely to be. So sometimes even 'real' reasons can be a cop-out! That certainly seems likely for most cases. Even bigger tangent: I can't think of many better ways to be broken up with than this! Seriously. It's (counter-intuitively) one of the least personally insulting break ups I've seen. Because pussy-footying around being 'sensitive' is in its own way just another kind of insult.
Is there a better solution which preserves both values? Real reasons in rot13, maybe?
It would depend on the broader social context - in particular, will you still share a social context - but if you do it seems likely you could get your name dragged through the mud in that example,and she still might not believe you and so suffer b) anyway.
WOW! I'd call this the most credible surprising argument for truthfulness I have seen in a long time. Figures it's from Eliezer. Score in our years long argument over the strength of the prior for truthfulness. Note though, that to be a good idea this would have to be done very sensitively. Also, the girl would have to be awfully rationalistic. I'd default to the position that any girl who isn't already poly is fairly unlikely to be a good candidate for this sort of argument, accompanied by a firm assertion that rationalist guys should not restrict themselves to poly girls.
I'm not convinced there's a significant correlation between being poly and being rational. In general, polyamory seems to be a mostly unchosen state of preference, and I've neither noticed nor would I particularly anticipate polyamorous people having a pronounced tendency to be more rational.
I don't think that it's particularly rational to be poly, but I do think that most people who are trying to be rational try to be poly, because being poly is a natural consequence of assumptions which sound reasonable and which few people in our society who identify with reason challenge. Also, let me note that I see polyamory through a lens much closer to that held by many lesbians, which sees sexual orientation as primarily political, rather than the lens favored by most male homosexuals, which sees sexual orientation as primarily biological but which would seem to contradict what we know of the history of cultures such as Classical Greece.

You really ought to get yourself an anonymous alter-identity so you aren't tempted to discuss things like this under your real name. I believe that you in particular should avoid this topic when writing on public forums.

I'm curious as to why me in particular, but I'm happy to hear from you privately. In general, I go with radical transparency. I think that the truth is that so long as you don't show shame, guilt or malice you win. Summers screwed up by accepting that his thoughts were shameful and then asserting that they were forced by reason and that others were so forced as well. This is both low-status and aggressive, a bad combination and a classic nerdy failure mode.

I find it doubtful that most aspiring rationalists try to be poly; there are probably more making the attempt since the polyhacking post, but I would be pretty surprised if they constitute a majority. Personally, I'm already polyamorous in that I'm open to relationships of more than two people, provided all the people are in a relationship with each other (TheOtherDave referred to relationships of this kind as closed polyads, but I haven't heard the term elsewhere and get no results by googling it.) I have no desire at all to engage in open relationship polyamory like Luke, Eliezer or Alicorn and MBlume, nor do I wish to self modify so that I would be happy with such a relationship. I don't suppose my own romantic inclinations are representative of the broader rationalist community, but I don't believe polyamory is as significant attractor as you seem to. On a side note, I have tried to hack myself bisexual, to no avail. As far as I'm concerned, men are about as sexually attractive as plants and there seems to be nothing I can do about it.
I think it's a matter of how far people go in these aspirations, and certainly asexuality is another plausible attractor. People can't be very aspiring towards rationality if something like the the polyhacking post influenced them much. Personally, I don't recommend polyamory, I just think that it's common among the extreme enough outliers.
This might depend on what one means by poly. I've been in poly and mono relationships before and don't try actively for either, it is a function of whether my primary is someone who is poly or mono. (This did lead to an interesting issue recently in that my current girlfriend is monoamorous and so I had to downgrade a certain highly poly friend back into the just friend category when my current girlfriend and I got serious.)
I'd call that poly, just like being open to strait or bi relationships makes you bi. It just means that you have self-determination regarding your actions and take responsibility for positive actions, which is pretty much our group's core defining trait.
How are you defining poly then? Can you be more explicit?
Mostly agreed, but with a caveat... my expectations would depend somewhat on context. If someone lives in a predominantly X environment and has the option of identifying as X but instead identifies as Y, I consider that noteworthy (though far from definitive) evidence that they're constructing their models of themselves based on observation rather than adopting the cultural default model unreflectively. Identifying as poly in some communities qualifies, to my mind. Constructing models based on observed data is an important rationality skill, as is setting aside cultural assumptions when evaluating data. Of course, that isn't at all the same thing as a correlation between being poly and being rational, but there's enough of a connection that the caveat seemed worth making.
I had considered the possibility that self identifying as poly would take both self knowledge and willingness to defy cultural norms, but I don't think this would be likely to impose more than a fairly minimal lower limit on the rationality of people self identifying as poly. I wouldn't expect it to take much more than the minimum rationality necessary to recognize oneself as homosexual. Anyone looking for partners above a low baseline of rationality is probably imposing a stronger filter for rationality already than they would by looking for polyamorous partners.
Agreed that identifying as homosexual in an environment that strongly encourages heterosexuality takes some of the same skills. Identifying as bisexual is an even closer analog. That is, it's a lot easier for me to notice that I'm not attracted to women and thus different from my heterosexual peers, than it is for me to notice that in addition to being attracted to women I'm also attracted to men; noticing that in addition to wanting a relationship with one person I also want a relationship with a second person is similarly more difficult. (More generally: if X is easier for As to notice than Y is, A1 noticing X says less about A1 (relative to As) than A1 noticing Y does.) Agreed that this basically raises the floor by some marginal amount. Agreed that if you can only filter based on one attribute at a time, this isn't the best one to choose if you want to maximize partner rationality. That said, if you can filter based on multiple attributes at once, it might turn out that a filter that takes this attribute into account performs better than one that doesn't, all else being equal.
Yes, I thought that assumption was pretty odd. Also, "already poly" has weird implications.
If there is a correlation, I doubt it's much more than the general poly correlations of being white, educated, Open, and some groups into SciFi - but then, there's also said to be a pagan current of poly-ers, which would drag down any correlation by quite a bit, pagan-types not being famous for rationality.
Based on the above considerations it's still probably better to claim unnatural attraction to large breasts then saying something is wrong with her. It's easier on the girl, plus possibly better to have reputation of a perv than a shmuck. Not sure what the score is now.
If your point is that going on about evolutionary psychology adds to the obfuscation but not to the insensitivity, I disagree. There are often ways of more or less sensitively coming clean about (what one takes to be) one's true reasons for breaking up. Maybe you wouldn't go so specific as "you're too fat," but you could talk about lack of physical chemistry or whatever without uttering a falsehood or being too misunderstood. But there is no way of sensitively taking your devastated ex aside and handing him/her a Tooby and Cosmides paper to read for homework.
It could go either way. Digression into a bunch of theory and science impersonalizes things as well as focussing on 'me' instead of 'you' The main problem with getting into a big speel on science is that it increases the total time spent dwelling on the painfully negative topic. The fact that it is talking about the science isn't the insulting part. Talking about 'lack of physical chemistry' is less insulting by virtue of being a vague pre-packaged euphemism rather than brutally personal criticism of highly status-sensitive personal features. It seems to be an entirely different kind of difference to whether you mention evolutionary psychology or not.

Digression into a bunch of theory and science impersonalizes things as well as focussing on 'me' instead of 'you'

Not really. Any evolutionary explanation of why I am repulsed by your physical appearance is going to spend a lot of time dwelling on your physical appearance. And I think the impersonalization bit is the key - it is a ridiculously impersonal digression at a moment of extreme emotional vulnerability on the other person's part. Most people will interpret impersonal explanations of this sort of emotionally impactful decision as an extremely cold-hearted way of excusing oneself. "I'm sorry I've just hurt your feelings. But allow me to explain how this is all just the work of the forces of sexual selection in our ancestral environment..."

I'm completely and utterly aghast at how some LW members can't see it this way.
We have a straightforward disagreement with respect to both the conclusion and most of the details.
If your point is that going on about evolutionary psychology adds to the obfuscation but not to the insensitivity, I disagree. There are often ways of more or less sensitively coming clean about (what one takes to be) one's true reasons for breaking up. Maybe you wouldn't go so specific as "you're too fat," but you could talk about lack of physical chemistry or whatever without uttering a falsehood or being too misunderstood. But there is no way of sensitively taking your devastated ex aside and handing him/her a Tooby and Cosmides paper to read for homework.

I find it a bit amusing that for all the theorizing about why this was taken so badly, nobody seems to have mentioned the most obvious one. That is, while most people do want to know why you're breaking up with them, very few will appreciate somebody rambling on for 20 pages worth about all the things that are wrong with you. This would be true even if there had been no ev-psych content at all. ("Here are all the things about you that annoy me. First, you have small breasts. Second, you pick your nose. Third, you prefer Star Trek: Deep Space Nine above Star Trek: The Next Generation...)

I'm willing to bet a small amount that it wasn't an hour's worth of listing different reasons for why lukeprog was breaking up with her.

It was one or a small number of reasons for the breakup, and the rest was explaining about evolutionary psychology and possibly some time spent on footnotes.

Explaining her flaws in such a scientific, matter-of-fact way shows how emotionally distant he was. She probably felt like the guy she loved just dropped off an eviction notice.

And this too.
Good point.
It would be waaaaay too hard to make that sound smart. People having emotions is irrational and irrelevant to a discussion of rationality and romance!
THIS. This, a million freaking times. Just... goddamnit!

No, because "Alice" was not operating by Crocker's Rules.

No-one ever really is. Well, no-one I've met.

Crocker's Rules: A significantly interesting formalisation that I had not come across before! Thank you! On the one hand, even if someone doesn't accept responsibility for the operation of their own mind it seems that they nevertheless retain responsibility for the operation of their own mind. On the other hand, from a results-based (utilitarian?) perspective I see the problems that can result from treating an irresponsible entity as though they were responsible. Unless judged it as having significant probability that one would shortly be stabbed, have one's reputation tarnished, or otherwise suffer an unacceptable consequence, there seem to be significant ethical arguments against {acting to preserve a softening barrier/buffer between a fragile ego and the rest of the world} and for {providing information either for possible refutation or for helpful greater total understanding}. | Then again, this is the same line of thought which used to get me mired in long religion-related debates which I eventually noticed were having no effect, so--especially given the option of decreasing possible reprisals' probabilities to nearly zero--treating others softly as lessers to be manipulated and worked around instead of interacting with on an equal basis has numerous merits. | --Though that then triggers a mental reminder that there's a sequence (?) somewhere with something to say about {not becoming arrogant and pitying others} that may have a way to {likewise treat people as irresponsible and manipulate them accordingly, but without looking down on them} if I reread it.

Beware! Crocker's Rules is about being able to receive information as fast as possible, not to transmit it!

From Radical Honesty:

Crocker's Rules didn't give you the right to say anything offensive, but other people could say potentially offensive things to you, and it was your responsibility not to be offended. This was surprisingly hard to explain to people; many people would read the careful explanation and hear, "Crocker's Rules mean you can say offensive things to other people."

From wiki.lw:

In contrast to radical honesty, Crocker's rules encourage being tactful with anyone who hasn't specifically accepted them. This follows the general principle of being "liberal in what you accept and conservative in what you send".

If you read books on communication such as How to Win Friends and Influence People, the authors go on about how just "saying what you think" is pretty much the worst strategy you can use. Not just for your own sake but for the purpose of actually convincing the other party of what you're trying to tell them. Unless they're explicitly running by Crocker's Rules and ready to squash their natural reaction to your words, it probably won't work.

Because the rest of the world operates without Crocker's Rules, treating someone as if they are is deemed to itself be a part of the message.
Because instead of making the argument, "it's not you, it's me," he made the argument, "it's you, because I'm just like every other guy on Earth."


No, it was in a car, and I had written it up in a 20-page document I printed off, but then I recited it from memory anyway. I'm kinda glad I don't have that document anymore.

This is the exact reverse, in every way, of Erin collaborating with a friend of hers to write up an elaborate argument tree for the job of persuading me that she ought to be my girlfriend, which she ended up not actually needing to use.

She also doesn't have that document any more. I so wanted to see it...

grin that was fun, and incidentally how I first found out about you (Eliezer). I don't remember actually formally writing said document though, so much as just reasoning out the pro/cons of various approaches.

I'm glad it worked out though! :)

How the hell do people lose these things? I keep all these documents so I can publicly distribute them after say a one year time period, to the general amusement and enlightenment of all. Ask her to write it again.

Wow! A 20 page essay on "why I'm breaking up with you"? That's just... brutal!

I'm picturing it with an impressive array of references at the end, and side remarks on The Neglected Virtue of Scholarsip.

Wow! A 20 page essay on "why I'm breaking up with you"? That's just... brutal!

And obviously the title should have been:

"In Which I Explain How Natural Selection Has Built Me To Be Attracted To Certain Features That You Lack"


I take no responsibility for anything Luke-2007 did. Different guy. :)

Out of curiosity, do you expect Luke-2015 to take responsibility for anything Luke-2011 does?

Only the good stuff! :)

I wonder if this principle works in the case of a murder which rapidly changes the murderer. (Later that day, they may bear no responsibility.)
I am surprised that she didn't cut you off way before you got to the one-hour mark...
My guess is that it would have been like forcing herself to look away from a train wreck.
Did you destroy all of the copies?
I don't know, you've made a lot of people laugh with this and you'll be able to use this story for several more decades. You might make tens of thousands of people laugh which could be net positive utilons.

If only lukeprog had thought to tell Alice that at the time!

"Sure I'm being a jerk, but telling people about this in the future will be hysterical, so it's overall a good thing for me to do!"

Yeah, I bet that would have gone down well. :)

I find this incident hard to square with the general impression I get of you as possessing average-high social skills and awareness. Could you say how you had expected her to react? Did you have a coherent mental model of how the conversation would go?
I did not have average-high social skills and awareness at the time. I'll say no more.
Have you since tried to apologize to her?
Do you not care to elaborate? I'd be interested to know how she took it. But if you'd rather not share, that's of course within your rights.

I'm pretty sure she would prefer I not elaborate.

Fair enough.
I would really like to know a girl that would be ok with that.

I'd expect that people who are okay with breakups are fairly rare, regardless of the method...

(to everyone inquiring about the details of that sad incident in such a... straightforward manner; whether you're neurotypical or not, take heed that such behavior is often considered very tactless, despite the offhanded and ironic manner of Luke's line. I can easily imagine myself being hurt by associated bad memories if questioned about something like that.) (I downvoted everyone here whose comments I would've been needlessly hurt by in Luke's situation)
I'm pretty neurotypical by Less Wrong standards and I don't see any tactless comments here.
How about joking off-handedly over an highly embarrassing, ill-judged thing that a stranger disclosed about their past?
I can see how they would be tactless in other settings and contexts. For instance, if Luke wasn't so clearly disassociating his current self from the person who did this embarrassing thing. If he hadn't brought it up. If it wasn't the kind of thing a lot of people here would totally do. If he didn't work under Crocker's. If this wasn't the internet. If he wasn't very high status in this group, etc... ETA: I think you're actually missing a number of the relevant subcultural norms and situational features that make this kind of joking okay.
Indeed, yet the sheer social horror of this action (showing his ex that document), to me, greatly outweighs all the reasons you listed. Me, once I'd have come to my senses way after committing a blunder of such intensity, I'd likely need a therapist to resolve it, or else would have buried the experience as deep as possible.
Kevin and Luke aren't strangers.
There are quite a few playful (to them) or inconsiderate (to me - and quite possibly to Luke himself, though he would understandably not admit it publicly for fear of pushing them away) comments from different people above.

Luke, I’ve seen you and others mention the fashion stuff positively quite a few times, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything of substance about it.

Is it something that can only be imparted in a bootcamp, or can you convey parts of it in a blog post (not necessarily on LessWrong)? Since most readers won’t go to a bootcamp anytime soon, even if a text is less effective per person the aggregate benefits of such a post are likely higher. Or did I miss a link somewhere?

(I did encounter lots of fashion advice on the net, but I didn’t quite get it; I’m asking you about it because I vaguely remember seeing comments of (at least one) bootcamp participant who mentioned a similar problem but who did benefit from (what I assume were) your lessons.)

There's plenty of good fashion advice out there. I would be very surprised if lukeprog claimed any rationalist insights into the matter. If you are male r/malefashionadvice is good. If you are female, I'd be shocked that you managed to be raised in western culture without having such advice shoved down your throat. (Seriously, though, google in both cases should suffice).
It's extremely unlikely a stranger will offer advice, and if you're introverted / not that social, co-workers are unlikely to comment on anything that isn't a big violation of norms (or if you work in a male-dominated field like programming...) That leaves friends, and if you have friends who know fashion, you'd probably already have thought to ask them :) The other issue I've run in to is that I absolutely loathe most mainstream fashions, so most people's advice will lead me down dead ends. It's entirely possible to be fashionable without following mainstream trends, but it's definitely harder to get a start on it. (sadly I solved all of these problems by having a fairly good fashion sense naturally, so I don't have any advice ^^;)
I haven't posted anything substantive about fashion online. It is hard to communicate that stuff even with text and pictures. I would have to write a whole book and clear the rights to hundreds of photos to reproduce what I taught in the minicamp and the longer boot camp, and I definitely don't have time to do that.
How did you learn what you know, then? Is there anything that you could recommend reading?
There's some recommended reading if you click here and scroll down to where it says "recommended reading".
Thanks, Luke. I remember seeing that now, I must have forgotten it.
As far as men's fashion is concerned, Put This On is starting their second season soon.
0Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 12y
What little I know about fashion, I've learned from magazines (women's fashion magazines in my case, but I'm pretty sure there are men's magazines too) and from helpful friends (which are probably easier to find if you are a girl.) I could learn a lot more from friends if I was willing to put in any effort or spend money on new clothes.
0AndrewM12y is a good resource for men's style

I think that the picture detracts from the article. It's a deviation from most other LW pages, heteronormatizes the content, and in addition since the in-picture and out-of-picture background is white, the people look like cutouts in this really awkward way.


Yes. The image also makes the post look like some random "science finds: X!" journalism, and that's not a good thing.

Some of those pages get obscene numbers of page views. Even heavily discounting the "conversion rate" here I think its possible for a net gain, if one objective is to provide novel rational insights to people.

heteronormatizes the content

Seems to reflect the content reasonably well actually, since it's a man reflecting on his experience with women...

...true. But as I say here, I'd like to think that Luke intends the material to be more possible to generalize than merely about how men should deal with women, though the concrete examples his personal experience and pursued knowledge provide are relevant to the experience of a man in pursuit of women. In other words, these are "Rationality Lessons Learned from Irrational Adventures in Romance", not "How to Become Vir Sapientior and Get the Girl of Your Dreams".

As Kevin said,

You aren't the target audience for the stock photo, it's a random person seeing Less Wrong for the first time. People like pictures.

As for the picture heteronormatizing the content... it's an explicitly hetero story, because it's my story. Don't you think it'd be weird to have a homosexual couple in the lead photo for my story?

People indeed like pictures- but stock photos on articles about romance and relationships pattern match to really awful websites.

I presume that tenshiko isn't suggesting a photo of a gay couple. Tenshiko is suggesting no picture. Kevin's point does still seem relevant in that context however.
You predict my opinion correctly - as I've said elsewhere I have other aesthetic concerns due to the picture itself. At the very least I think it'd look much better with a colored background, because of the cutout effect I mention.
I like the photo, but the deviation point is a good one, which you did not address. Was that purposeful?
Yes. I deviate because people like pictures, and LW is not adequately taking advantage of this fact.
Do LW readers like pictures? It seems like the feedback has primarily been negative. Know your audience...
Lukeprog said people like pictures. The feedback has been primarily negative because pictures are not the status quo and people, including LW readers, have a mild preference for cultural norms to be preserved, not challenged.
So you're saying pictures add so little value that "aiee, this is a change" overwhelms it? Can we remove them and be done with it, then?
Crowds typically react negatively to change no matter what postive effects it brings. Wizards of the Coast has a track record of making decisions that were necessary and beneficial to the long term health of their games, each of which brought in new players and which old players eventually adapted to, and every single one of them produced an uproar.
To me, the proper response seems more likely to be using this as an opportunity to adjust our status quo bias downwards.
Yes, but in addition to it being change, it's also genuinely a change I don't like. I've visited enough website to know what I do and don't like. A small topic indicator icon like you see on Slashdot would be fine.
I realize you're getting rather piled on in this thread, so I'm somewhat reluctant to nitpick like this, but: expresses an idea that is distinct from It's not all about you, basically.
I like pictures, though not necessarily these particular pictures. Still, I like seeing at a glance a picture that has some connection to the topic of the article.
Not every change is an improvement, but every improvement is a change.
Color me marginalized.
Exactly! Instead of this being a generic discussion of how maybe you can get the romantic utilons you want from more than one person, suddenly it's about the conflict between the educated man's logical evolutionarily dictated interest being directed towards multiple concubines, and the irrational woman's investment in marriage, imposed upon her by society. The shot's composition itself supports this, with the man clearly on top by virtue of more than just being naturally taller. Is all this Luke's intent? Well, I'd like to think not, especially given his comments about trying to reduce the perception of misogynistic tones in the piece. But as he is a heterosexual man (yes? as far as I've been able to tell Luke's not bisexual or at least didn't present that way during the time period of these stories, please correct me if I'm wrong) Luke's story doesn't deviate from these norms, and the picture is definitely reinforcement.
Would an actual photo of Luke and Alice be better?

Would an actual photo of Luke and Alice be better?

Now I'm imagining a picture of Luke with a redacted silhouette of a woman entitled "woman I am not attracted to any more". There are arrows pointing to various lacking physical attributes lacking from an evolutionary psychology perspective, complete with sketches of what they should look like... Perhaps with a supplemental craziness vs hotness chart or two.

Okay, this would actually be really epic and I would support it assuming it didn't have the whole fracking white background creating cutouts thing going on.
I think this could easily lead to an outside observer interpreting this very negatively. I believe the relevant vague catch-all term is "objectifying". The entire approach of a silhouette for the female and an actual picture for the male could easily send very negative signals to a lot of people.
Agreed, but the idea still made me laugh :)

Good article, but after comparing it with the drafts, it comes across as a little... weakened?

Politics, religion, math, and programming are basically never the right subject matter when flirting.

I wonder why you ended up removing that line. Granted, I'd say "rarely" or "unlikely to be" rather than "never", but still, it looks like a useful pointer (or at least reminder), especially given the kind of crowd we have here.

If it's an observation based on repeated experiment, you should say it. If knowing this helped you optimise your strategies, you should say it. Or did you end up thinking that it's actually untrue?

Instead of saying "Women want..." and "Women mean..." would it not be more accurate to say "Some women want.../mean..., and those are the kind of women I wanted to seek, so this knowledge was useful to me."? Also, did your studying convincingly impart that these general desires were gender specific, or would it be more accurate to say "Some people want.../mean"?

Instead of saying "Women want..." and "Women mean..." would it not be more accurate to say "Some women want.../mean...,

I am troubled by the vehemence by which people seem to reject the notion of using the language of the second-order simulacrum -- especially in communities that should be intimately aware of the concept that the map is not the territory.

Some forms of accuracy are simply wastes of space; how many digits of Pi does rational!Harry know, as compared to rational!Hermione?

I am troubled by the vehemence by which people seem to reject the notion of using the language of the second-order simulacrum -- especially in communities that should be intimately aware of the concept that the map is not the territory.

Understanding signaling in communication is almost as basic as understanding the difference between the map and the territory.

A choice of words always contains an element of signaling. Generalizing statements are not always made in order to describe the territory with a simpler map, they are also made in order to signal that the exceptions from the general case are not worth mentioning. This element of signaling is also present, even if the generalization is made out of a simple desire to not "waste space" - indeed the exceptional cases were not mentioned! Thus a sweeping generalization is evidence for the proposition that the speaker doesn't consider the exceptions to the stated general rule worth much (an upper bound is the trouble of mentioning them). And when dealing with matters of personal identity, not all explanations for the small worth of the set of exceptional people are as charitable as a supposedly small size of the set.

Certainly. However, the simple truth is that communication becomes positively impossible if 'sweeping generalizations' at some level are not made. Is this a trade-off? Sure. But I for one do not find it exceedingly difficult to treat all broad-category generalizations as simulacra representing the whole body. Just like how there's probably not a single person in politics who agrees with the entirety of the DNC or the GOP's platforms, discussing those platforms is still relevant for a reason. And political identity is arguably one of the most flame-susceptible category of that available for discourse nowadays. So that's saying something significant here.

A statement like "Women want {thing}" leaves it unclear what the map is even supposed to be, barring clear context cues. This can lead to either fake disagreements or fake agreements.

Fake disagreements ("You said that Republicans are against gun control, but I know some who aren't!") are not too dangerous, I think. X makes the generalization, Y points out the exception, X says that it was a broad generalization, Y asks for more clarity in the future, X says Y was not being sufficiently charitable, and so on. Annoying to watch, but not likely to generate bad ideas.

Fake agreements can lead to deeper confusion. If X seriously believes that 99% of women have some property, and Y believes that only 80% of women have some property, then they may both agree with the generalization even if they have completely different ideas about what a charitable reading would be!

It costs next to nothing to say "With very few exceptions, women...", "A strong majority of women...." or "Most women...." The three statements mean different things, and establishing the meaning does not make communication next-to-impossible; it makes communication clearer. This isn't about charity, but clarity.

I in another subthread referenced the "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" 'fanfic' written by Eliezer, when he mentioned how many fewer digits of Pi rational!Harry knew as compared to rational!Hermione. The point is that I'm concerned not with charity nor with clarity, but rather with sufficiency to the current medium. Each of those little "costs next to nothing" statements actually do have a cost, one that isn't necessarily clear initially. Are you familiar at all with how errors propagate in measurements? Each time you introduce new provisos, those statements affect the "informational value" of each dependent statement in its nest. This creates an analogous situation to the concept of significant digits in discourse. For a topic like lukeprog's, in other words, the difference between 99% and 80% of women is below the threshold of significance. Eliminating it altogether (until such time as it becomes significant) is an important and valuable practice in communication. Failure to effectively exercise that practice will result in needless 'clarifications' distracting from the intended message, hampering dialogs with unnecessary cognitive burden resultant from additional nesting of "informational quanta." In other words; if you add too many provisos to a statement, an otherwise meaningful and useful one will become trivially useless. An example of this in action can be found in another subthread of this conversation where someone stated he felt that there is a 'trend among frequent LessWrongers to over-generalize". This has informational meaning. He later added a 'clarification' that he hadn't intended the statement as an indication of population size, which totally reversed the informational value of his statement from an interesting one to a statement so utterly trivial that it is effectively without meaning or usefulness.

The point is that I'm concerned not with charity nor with clarity, but rather with sufficiency to the current medium. Each of those little "costs next to nothing" statements actually do have a cost, one that isn't necessarily clear initially.

Not adding those statements also has a cost.

in other words, the difference between 99% and 80% of women is below the threshold of significance.

Honestly, you don't know how many potential rationalists may find a post seemingly making unchallenged sweeping generalizations about women, and decide that these so-called rationalists are just a group of bigoted idiots that are less rational than your average person-in-the-street.

It's okay for someone to to say that pi is "3.14" if the other person knows that you know in reality it has more digits than that, and you're just being sufficient for your purposes. In short if there's actual transparency, not a double illusion of such.

But if they don't know that, if every post of yours may be perceived as an indication of complete positions (not hasty approximations thereof), it costs less to do things like say "most women" instead of "women" (or add a general disclaimer at the beginning) rather than not do it.

This is trivially true. What does adding them add to a conversation to which they are not relevant or significant? This is uncontestably true. But the opposite is also true; you don't know how many potential rationalists may find a post filled with provisos and details and, upon discovering a massive gulf of an inferential gap, give up on even attempting to understand. Certainly. This is a gross misrepresentation of my statements, to the point of being nothing remotely like what I advocate. I have repeatedly advocated not the elimination of precision but the application of only the relevant degree of precision to the nature of the discourse at hand. My point is not restricted to '''"most women" instead of "women"'''. It is a generalized principle which happens to apply here. For any given conversation there are thousands of such details we must choose to parse for relevance to a conversation. Demanding unerring accuracy beyond relevance is simply damaging to dialogue.
The cost of omitting them isn't clear initially, either. I was generally taught to carry significant figures further than strictly necessary to avoid introducing rounding errors. If my final answer would have 3 significant digits, using a few buffer digits seemed wise. They're cheap. Propagation of uncertainty is not a reason to drop qualifiers. It's a reason to use them. When reading an argument based on a generalization, I want to know the exceptions BEFORE the argument begins, not afterwards. That way, I can have a sense of how the uncertainties in each step affect the final conclusion. If I want an answer to three significant figures, I do not begin my reasoning by rounding to two sigfigs, then trying to add in the last sigfig later. If one person thinks that an argument depends on an assumption that fails in 1 in 100 cases, and someone else thinks the assumption fails in 1 in 5 cases, and they don't even know that they disagree, and pointing out this disagreement is regarded as some kind of map-territory error, they will have trouble even noticing when the disagreement has become significant. This tends to happen to bad generalizations, yes. Once you consider all of the cases in which they are wrong, suddenly they seem to only be true in the trivial cases! Good generalizations are still useful even after you have noted places where they are less likely to hold. Adding any number of true provisos will not make them trivial. As for the cognitive load, why not state assumptions at the beginning of an essay where possible, rather than adding them to each individual statement? If the reader shares the assumptions, they'll just nod and move on. If the reader does NOT share the assumptions, then relieving them of the cognitive burden of being aware of disagreement is not a service.
I just now caught this, and... this is, I believe, where we have our fundamental disconnect. By restricting the dialogue to essays the overwhelming majority of the meaningfulness of what I'm trying to say is entirely eliminated: my statements have been aimed at discussing the heuristic of measuring the cognitive burden per "unit" of information when communicating. The fact is that in a pre-planned document of basically any type one can safely assume a vastly greater available "pool of cognition" in his audience than in, say, a one-off comment in response to it, a youtube video comment, or something said over beers on a Friday night with your drinking-buddies. I am struck by the thought that this metaphorically very similar to how Newton's classical mechanics equations manifest themselves from quantum mechanics after you introduce enough systems, or how the general relativity equations become effectively conventional at "non-relativistic" speeds: when you change the terms of the equations the apparent behaviors become significantly different. Just like how there's no need to bother considering your own relativistic mass when deciding whether or not to go on a diet, the heuristic I'm trying to discuss is vanishingly irrelevant to anything that one should expect from a thought-out-in advance, unrestricted-in-length, document.
Upvoted for clear communication. I'm sort of puzzled, though, as to how I could have possibly interpreted your statements as applying to anything but the post and the comments on it; I saw no context clues suggesting that you meant "in everyday conversation." Did I miss these? That said, if one of us had added just three or four words of proviso earlier, limiting our generalizations explicitly, we could have figured the disconnect out more quickly. I could have said that my generalizations apply best to essays and edited posts. You could have said that your generalizations apply best to situations where the added cost of qualifiers carries a higher burden. Because we did not explicitly qualify our generalizations, but instead relied on context, we fell prey to a fake disagreement. However, any vindication I feel at seeing my point supported is nullified by the realization that I, personally, failed to apply the communication strategy that I was promoting. Oops.
My language throughout was highly generalized. Consider my opening statement: "I am troubled by the vehemence by which people seem to reject the notion of using the language of the second-order simulacrum -- especially in communities that should be intimately aware of the concept that the map is not the territory." And then also consider the fact that I used the term "discourse". I didn't mean "everyday communication" specifically -- it simply is the venue where such a heuristic is most overtly valuable and noticeable. I did not qualify my generalizations because there were no qualifications to make: I was meaning the general sense. Quite frankly, I did. That would be a modifying element to the "threshold of significance". (I.e.; "Is the cost of adding item X to this conversation greater than the value item X provides to the depth or breadth of information I am attempting to convey? If yes, do not add it. If no, do.") Because I was discussing so highly generalized a principle / heuristic, the fact that situations where added cost of qualifiers cost a higher burden is simply an inexorable conclusion from the assertion.
This seems like a context in which that shouldn't be expected to save you from unwarranted criticism and being misunderstood at all. ;-)
Well, it's tough: When I mean to be general and I use generalized terminology, should I not have the expectation of having communicated that my case is generalized?
For a moderately loose definition of 'thought out in advance', this describes most text-based, internet-based communication, and certainly the types of communication that can happen on LW.
I disagree with the usage of the term "moderately" here. I do not find it applicable. How many hours do you spend on each comment you make?
I don't see how your question is relevant to the topic at hand. I usually spend less than 15 minutes writing any given comment - most of mine are relatively short - but that's not counting time spent thinking about a topic and figuring out if I have something to say about it at all, which varies wildly and has been known to last days in some cases. But even in instances where I come up with a response near-instantly, it's generally because I've previously spent time thinking about the particular issue, and as a result have a high-quality cached response available, which certainly seems to fit the criteria for 'thought out in advance'!
Given that your personal commenting history on this site is extremely limited comparatively speaking I can't really say that I disagree with you directly on this. But we weren't talking about just you personally, we were talking about "most text-based, internet-based communication". And you seem to be an exception, not a rule, when it comes to the normal dialogue/discourse I see in the commenting threads of LW. And LW itself is by far vastly the exception to the rule when it comes to dealing with statements made as a result from pre-formed thoughts. That being said -- I would hope we can both agree that the notion that one can prepare for all possible conversations in advance regardless of topic is simply ludicrous without something resembling the heuristics I am trying to put a spotlight on.
o.O If you're going to change the subject, at least don't try to act like I'm doing something wrong when I politely go along with the subject change, okay? Most text-based, internet-based communication has very little in the way of time pressure, and LessWrong specifically has a norm of allowing or even encouraging comments on older posts and comments, allowing for arbitrary levels of pre-thinking. Length restrictions are slightly more common on the internet at large, but still not the norm, and not present here. This, in the context of your original comment - plus the implication that since it is possible to do those things, any case where someone doesn't is a matter of personal choice or (problematic, in my opinion) group norms - was the entirety of my original point. I do agree that the idea of having cached responses to all conversational possibilities is ridiculous. I wasn't proposing that that is a thing that people should particularly try to do. My point, insofar as I had a point and wasn't just answering your question on the assumption that you had some use for the information, was that that is one of the tactics that I've found to work, the other main one being to actually take the time to think my responses through, even if that takes a while. I am not at all sure what you're trying to communicate, here. One possible way of parsing it suggests that you might think that since LW is already well above average in terms of good communication, making it better shouldn't be a priority, which I disagree with. I'd strongly prefer a clarification of your actual intent to a discussion of that idea if it wasn't what you were trying to communicate, though.
I was using an example to demonstrate the intended meaning (which apparently was not a well-aimed one given the fact that you are statistically aberrant). I was not changing the topic. If I cared about time pressure as opposed to cognitive burden -- that is, available attention span -- I would have indicated so. I don't, so this isn't relevant. Even so, my point remains easily demonstrated by a perusal of the majority of comments, which are typically made in a "conversational" rather than "ex post facto" mode. (We, right now, are in that conversational mode.) A) that wasn't my original comment. B) Your counter-point as I understand it still remains invalid, to be quite honest, because you're -- I cannot help but feel intentionally at this point -- refusing to recognize the fact that you're using statistical outliers instead of norms to support your claims against what I have already stated explicitly was a heuristic. No, that is not a valid interpretation of my statement. You leave out the context provided by antecedent statement of mine (same comment) that necessarily influences the meaning: "Given that your personal commenting history on this site is extremely limited comparatively speaking I can't really say that I disagree with you directly on this." It is clear that how I said you were different was in that you have a limited commenting history. I seem to have some strong difficulties in communicating with you any of my intended meanings at pretty much any point. I'm not at all certain why this is the case, as I do not normally have this difficulty with an audience. I have noted that you have left out contextually significantly relevant points/items in coming to your interpretations of my words as I have written them. I do not know why that is happening, but it makes me feel that this conversation is never going to go anywhere but frustrate me. So no, you won't get that clarification; but not because I wouldn't like to give it.
Which is why I also discussed error propagation, which compounds. I can only say that you are reading the metaphor too literally given the examples I've given thus far. Of course!!! This isn't applicable to dialogue, however, as it has the opposite problem: the degree of cognitive burden to retain the informational value of a statement increases with the increased complexity. There is a limit on how much of this can be done in a given conversation. Increasing complexity of statements to increase their accuracy can cause the ability to comprehend a statement to be reduced. This statement carries a specific assumption of depth of dialogue which may or may not be valid.
And yet, we still say that p(Christianity is correct) is epsilon, rather than zero - and this seems to cause few-to-no problems, even.
Seems is the key here. Any instance where you would use that sort of language, the relevant threshold of significance was such that it was a proper statement to make. Consider a context where you were making that statement to a Jehovah's Witness trying to hand you a flyer as your 10 o'clock bus was stopping in front of you. You could still make the statement, but if you were being honest with yourself you'd realize that your words would be gibberish, whereas "I'm not Christian" would be contextually appropriate: you would convey a statement with non-zero informational value. "The probability that 'Christianity is correct' is epsilon" on the other hand would not in such a context, quite likely, actually convey any meaning to the audience.
It seems that I've failed to make my point. It is, as far as I can tell, safe to assume that everyone who reads LW understands enough about probabilities that saying 'zero' would communicate exactly the same concept regarding the probability at hand as saying 'epsilon', if we had a norm of allowing the former. The reason for doing the latter is about signaling, in much the same way that saying 'most women' instead of just 'women' is about signaling. In both cases, the point of the signal is to encourage accurate thought in the long run, rather than letting a small amount of convenience in the near term to outweigh that.
Either you have or I have. As I believe I understand entirely what your position here is, I can't help but wonder. Here's the thing: nothing I've been saying was tailored at any point to be specific to Less Wrong in particular. It's also not a safe assumption, by the way, for the simple fact there is at least one person who recommends this community to every budding (or potential) rationalist he encounters -- me. At least one of those persons (my ex-primary of 10 years) has an exceedingly poor capability of grasping mathematics and probabilities. This was one of the reasons she and I didn't make it past that 10 year mark. See, I suspect there might be a political element to this as well. I for one would strongly prefer that the second-order simulacrum be the standard assumption rather than requiring continued increased cognitive burden in discourse. It is true that we think in language; and therefore the language we use shapes our thoughts -- but language is a memeplex of symbolic representations of semantical content/value. If we adjust the symbol, we adjust the thought. But this is now becoming an altogether different topic of conversation. Reductively, the long term is nothing more than a collection of near terms. What remains a constant near term burden over the long term becomes a long-term burden. I remain of the position that constantly adding caveats and provisos to language regardless of where the focus of discourse at a given moment happens to be is a fundamental error in communication. Since we can't seem to agree on this topic, I have to wonder what postulates we aren't sharing in common.
Not judging but... this is a very novel reason for ending a 10-year relationship.
"One of" is a key term here. I also didn't provide any context for weighting of said reasons. I didn't make those clarifications because it really wasn't relevant to the information I was trying to convey at the time. ;-)
Also, a factor like that may have been a significant cause of other more proximate issues.
Okay, I'll admit it -- that just got a grin and a chuckle out of me. Well done.
True but misleading. One should seek to avoid eliminating relevant meaning in the process of making those generalizations. If you say "Men are sexually attracted to women" and your intended meaning is "this is true enough often enough to serve as a reliable guide to male behavior", then when someone points out that homosexual men and asexual men exist, the fact that those groups are minorities doesn't change the fact that you were imprecise in misleading ways, even if you didn't explicitly say "always". In addition, the unspoken implications you take out of the the statement (which could be nearly anything depending on what you're talking about) may be apparent but not agreeable to the listener, which is quite relevant if you're depending upon those to support your argument downstream. So yes, make generalizations, but make good, accurate generalizations with appropriate scope limitations. And try to make the implications you perceive explicit.
(Formatting tip: you need to add two spaces at the end of the previous line to get lesswrong's commenting markup language to " "/"\n". Two newlines will " ".) I follow the convention of thinking that provisos are somwhere betwee standard deviation or significant digits. When someone adds that proviso "asexual/homosexual" -- they are changing the relevant level of precision necessary to the conversation. For example; if I say "Men and women get married because they love each other", then the fact that some men/women don't marry, or the fact that intersex people aren't necessarily men or women, or the fact that GLBT people who marry are also likely to do so because of love, or the fact that some marriages are loveless is only a distraction to the conversation at hand. While this seems like a trivial item for a single statement, the thing about this is that such provisos propagate across all dependent statements, meaning that the informational value of all dependent statements is reduced by each such proviso made. Consider the difference in meaning between "Men and women marry each other because they love each other" and "Men/women/intersex individuals and other men/women/intersex individuals may or may not marry one another in groups as small as two with no upper bound for reasons that can vary depending on the situation." This is, granted, an extreme example (reductio absurdum) but I make it to demonstrate the value of keeping in mind your threshold of significance when making a statement. Sometimes, as counterintuitively as it may seem, less accurate statements are less misleading.

When someone adds that proviso "asexual/homosexual" -- they are changing the relevant level of precision necessary to the conversation.

No, they are pointing out that in order to apply to a case they are interested in, the conversation must be made more precise.

For example; if I say "Men and women get married because they love each other", then the fact that some men/women don't marry, or the fact that intersex people aren't necessarily men or women, or the fact that GLBT people who marry are also likely to do so because of love, or the fact that some marriages are loveless is only a distraction to the conversation at hand.

The last one isn't a distraction, it's a counterexample. If you want to meaningfully say that men and women marry out of love, you must implicitly claim that loveless marriages are a small minority. If someone says, "A significant number of of marriages are loveless," they aren't trying to get you to add a trivializing proviso. They're saying that your generalization is false.

Consider the difference in meaning between "Men and women marry each other because they love each other" and "Men/women/intersex individu

... (read more)
I want you to understand that you just agreed with me while appending the word "No" to the beginning of your sentence. This is... a less than positive indicator as to whether I am being understood. The statement doesn't allow for counterexamples because it's a statement of fact, at bare minimum: the fact is that men and women do marry because they love each other. Other shit happens too, but that itself is a factual statement. Its informational value as a statement can only be derived from within the text of a given conversation. That doesn't follow. Where do you get this necessity of implication from? Certainly not from the principle I'm espousing here. (Note: "A small minority" is a different statement from "a minority". In several cities in the US, whites are a minority. And yet the second-order simulacrum of those populations would still be a white person -- because whites, while a minority, are the plurality [largest minority].) If and only if you meant "always" in the first place and want to be less than perfectly accurate. "In the majority of cases" is an inaccurate method of expressing how S-O S's work -- as I mentioned above, with "the largest minority" being the representative entity of the body. So you'd be better able to most accurately express the situation by stating that X happens Y percent of the time, but that simply isn't language used in ordinary discourse. That the statement can be revised in this manner does not obviate the example I was pointing to with the previous example. I used an explicit reductio ad absurdum to make the mechanism explicit. From zero to one hundred, as it were. In a more 'realistic' example for your revision: what is meant by "generally"? What is meant by "love"? What is meant by "people who marry"? These are all imprecise statements. Is "generally" "a large majority"? Is "generally" "a small majority"? Is "generally" "the largest minority"? Etc., etc.. You chose not to go to that level of precision because it was not
Wait, wait, I think I see something here. I think I see why we are incapable of agreeing. This seems more like a description of how S-O S's fail. Can you offer any reason why I should treat S-O S's as a useful or realistic representational scheme if my goal is to draw accurate conclusions about actual, existing people? Let me try to make my confusion clearer: If I come upon a Halloween basket containing fifty peanut butter cups without razorblades, and ten peanut butter cups with razorblades, what is the second-order simulacrum I use to represent the contents of that basket? "A basket of delicious and safe peanut butter cups?" Is this even a legitimate question, or am I still not grasping the concept?
There is a town. That town is called Simulacraton. Simulacraton is 40% white, 35% black, and 25% hispanic by population. The Joneses of Simulacraton -- are a semi-affluent suburban couple and live next door to a black man married to a hispanic woman. The Joneses are the second-order simulacrum of the average household in Simulacraton. Second-order simulacra will always fail when you use them in ways that they are not meant to be used: such as actually being representative of individual instantiations of a thing: I.e.;, when you try to pretend they are anything other than an abstraction, a mapping of the territory designed for use as high-level overview to convey basic information without the need for great depth of inspection of the topic.
The article says: If I'm reading this correctly, it leaves me even more leery about the value of second-order simulacra. Also from the article: ... did you intend for me to read this charitably? At best, it's a descriptive statement that says that people no longer care about the territory, and talk about maps without even realizing that they are not discussing territory. At worst, it says that reality has ceased to be real, which is Not Even Wrong. If you want me to understand your ideas, please link me to clearer writing. ---------------------------------------- I am going to avoid using race or sex examples. I appreciate that you used Simulacraton as an object-level example, as it made your meaning much clearer, but I'd rather not discuss race when I am still unhappy with the resolution of the candy bowl problem. I will revise my question for clarity: "What is a reasonable second-order simulacrum of the contents of that basket of candy, and why? If no reasonable second-order simulacrum exists, why not?" True, but none of the above reservations apply to the bowl of candy. * I am not claiming that the second-order simulacrum should represent the individual candies in the bowl. It may be wrong in any individual case. I am simply trying to convey a useful impression of the POPULATION, which is what you claim that SO S's are useful for. * I am not pretending that a simulacrum is anything more than an abstraction. I think it is a kind of abstraction that is not as useful as other kinds of abstraction when talking about populations. * I DO want a high-level overview, not a great depth of information. This overview should ideally reflect one REALLY important feature of the candy bowl. (The statement that I would use to map the basket's population in detail would be "Ten of the sixty candies in the basket contain razorblades." The statement that I would use to map the basket broadly, without close inspection, would be, "Several of the candies in that basket

I'm hoping I can butt in and explain all this.

Logos01 probably shouldn't have brought up Baudrillard, who is among the sloppiest and most obscure thinkers of the last century. Baudrillard's model of abstraction is pretty terrible. Much better to user analytic philosophy's terminology rather than post-structuralism's terminology. In analytic philosophy we talk about abstract objects, "types" or "kinds". These are ubiquitous, not especially mysterious, and utterly essential to the representation of knowledge. "Electron", "Homo sapiens", "the combustion engine", "Mozart's 10th Symphony", "the Human Genome", etc. To map without abstract objects one would have to speak only of particulars and extensionally defined sets. And that's just the nouns-- whether one can even use verbs without recourse to abstraction is another issue entirely. Open up any scientific journal article and you will see named entities which are abstract objects. There are schools of thought that hold that kinds can ultimately be reduced to classes determined only by resemblance or predicate-- in an attempt to dissolve the supposed mystery of wh... (read more)

Using 'x', 'y', and 'z' as labels to represent variable groups reinforces the pernicious stereotype that other letters aren't worthy of being used as labels to represent variables and don't count.
I don't appreciate your attempt to erase the experiences of the Greek alphabet!
I don't appreciate how lazy these jokes are. Once posting on LW one would assume unnecessary tribal signaling in the form of easy, form-fillable potshots at the religious, "political correctness," non-nerd popular culture, &c.
After I write a six-paragraph explanation of abstraction and the pragmatics of generalization I reserve the right to tell a lazy joke. I think you're reading too much into the joke though. I wasn't intending to make fun of political correctness- hopefully what I wrote before makes it clear that that is not my attitude. I did find lessdazed comment humorous both for the meta-ness of turning the subject of the paragraph back on the text itself and for the juxtaposition of the concern for inclusiveness being applied to silly, non-human things like variable letters. So I played along. The joke was a good way of emphasizing that that particular concern about generalizations is not about communication or accuracy, but about how we treat people. Whether lessdazed was trying to make fun of political correctness or not you'll have to ask him.
I habsolutely zero intentions. I had hoped that you would be capable of being a rational agent in this dialogue. If, however, that isn't something you care to do, we can end this conversation here and now. The stereotypical bowl-candy is perfectly safe. It likely has a neighbor that has a razorblade in it. -- In a side-note, why did you feel the need to push this particular variation of your question on me when I had already answered it? What, exactly, did you think the Simulacraton example was? Or did you not make the connection merely because you used candies and ratios and I used people and percents? Of COURSE they do. It's not an applicable or relevant scenario in which one SHOULD use a second-order simulacrum in. 1. The scale is vastly too small to allow for abstraction to be useful. 2. The topic at hand focuses on the group in question rather than some other topic to which the group is tangential. Good luck getting through life without ever constructing a symbolic representation of anything at any time ever under any circumstances: because that's what you are arguing against.
Downvoted for telling me what I'm arguing for and against, for something like the third time now, when I am fairly certain that our intuitive ideas of how abstraction works are somewhat different. This is one of the few things that breaks my internal set of "rules for a fair argument."t. (Note: I am NOT downvoting for the paragraph beginning "OF COURSE they do", because it's given me a hunch as to what is going on here, is clearly written, and makes your actual objections to the candy bowl case clearer. I SHOULD not be downvoting for the first paragraph, but it affected the decision.) When I tried to work out what you meant by second-order simulacra, you linked me to a cryptic Wikipedia article discussing a vague description of the term, along with confused-looking statements about the nature of reality. I really did NOT know what your intentions were, and I genuinely was getting exasperated. I am sorry for implying bad faith. I should have said, "I have no clue what I am supposed to take from this article, but it sends extremely dubious signals to me about the validity of this concept." Because you hadn't. I presented an example where second-order simulacra fail. Reading the reply, I was unsatisfied to find a description of a different case, followed by a statement that second-order simulacra fail in the candy bowl case, but for reasons that weren't consistent with the example. An example chosen in which your heuristic gave a semi-plausible answer, when I had asked about a place where it ceases to work. I did. I did not conceive, however, that your answer would be: The analogy to the population of people was stretched enough - and not just for reasons of ratios and percents - that there was no WAY I'd come to the above answer without questioning it. This is getting closer to what I actually am looking for - a situation where I ought to use second-order simulacra. However, I still do not think these are problems for the candy bowl. 1: Abstractions can work
Is this a matter of degree or of kind? It seems to me like the issue here is how many qualifications should be made in particular contexts, and so is a question of degree, and not at all one of kind. This means that there is a possible mind with standards analogous to yours to the same degree yours are analogous to Logos01. For example, where Logos01 thinks an essay with five paragraphs of content needs one disclaimer, you might think it needs fifty, and some third party might think it needs two thousand and fifty, and some fourth party 125,000. Any criticism you apply to him or her seems applicable to you as well, for all trade off precision for brevity. It therefore seems impossible to muster a strong argument against Logos01's general practice of being imprecise for the sake of finishing sentences despite lack of perfect precision, because you do that as well, and so it seems your argument can't be stronger than a weaker one against a particular balance of trade offs.
1. I made no "intuitive" statements about "how abstraction works". Ever. 2. Your positional statements made it quite clear that your objection to S-O S's was in the fact that they are an abstraction. 3. You repeatedly made several arbitrary statements about representative symbols and how they would "have" to be that I demonstrated to be inaccurate of how abstraction is done. 4. I never make the statement, "You are arguing X" unless it is factually and demonstrably true. You stated that you "distrusted" "this method" ("this method" being the use of symbols without referents) of abstraction... but unfortunately, that's all abstraction is; "making maps." If you don't like it when someone tells you what you are or aren't arguing for or against, don't put yourself into a position where those statements would be true. If you had said, "The sky is blue", and I told you, "You are saying the sky is blue", would you also react so childishly? The rest of your post is simply too long for me to bother with. This topic has gone beyond my threshold of conversational utility: you demonstrate that you will accept nothing I say at any point and are merely arguing for the sake of arguing. Case in point: They are topical. This is a tautology. And this marks at least the second time I've called out your continuing to riddle the topic with questions that have already been answered or have answers whose very questions demonstrate them. This is not the mark of an honest conversant. Further: This directly contradicts the very definition of the word, "abstraction". Abstraction -- and mental representation is never anything BUT abstraction -- is definitionally constructing simulacra within the mind. I point this out as yet another demonstrative example of your arguing for what I can only describe merely the sake of arguing. Rounding this out: No. This is a flat-out false characterization of my position and I have explicitly disagreed with it. I said nothing of the sort. Ever. An

For example; if I say "Men and women get married because they love each other",

Oooh, perfect example! Because this is probably still not true for a plurality, if not majority of humanity, and it used to be little more than a perk if it occurred in a marriage. For most of human history and for much of humanity today, marriage is more like a business relationship, corporate merger, pragmatic economic decision...

If you confine your statement to Westerners, and especially middle-to-upper class ones, and those who live in societies strongly modelled on the same pattern (urban Chinese often yes; rural Chinese often no) then you are dealing with an acceptable level of accurate to be relatively unobjectionable.

Do you want to try again?

[...] My statement wasn't ever meant to be representative of the whole. That should have been obvious. If I'd said "only for love" then that'd be a valid objection. As it stands, I have no such problem. Generalizations that are useful for a context need not be without exception or even universally comprehensive. People in the past or in other cultures are irrelevant to me when discussing social habits I am familiar with. So, no. My statement is fine as is. Did I leave out a great heaping swath of precisions, provisos, and details? Absolutely!! -- but that was the point from the outset.
And you wouldn't hear a peep out of me if it wasn't depressingly common to see people couch advice, theories and other mental-model-of-the-world stuff in such terms, giving no obvious sign that they've thought about the distinction between "speaking to a specific audience" and just speaking with the assumption that the listeners fit their relatively vague preconception of who they talk to, rather than about. It's far from clear when an Anglophonic Western man says "Men and women marry each other for romantic love" that he is cognizant of the distinction. After all, that's his default context, other possibilities are barely even mentioned in his expected cultural background (let alone presented as normal), and unless he has much overt contact with people for whom that's not the case, the odds are pretty good it's a thing-over-there, done by some outgroup about whom he knows rather little. It may not be terribly important if he's just talking among a peer group of like folks, but when he's got access to a wide and relatively unknown audience (it could be anyone reading), and he's trying to frame it in terms of general information about "how people work", it's usually a safe bet he just didn't think about how his own norms influence his advice, and hence how applicable it might be to even, say, an English-speaking, technically-trained man in India (where arranged marriages for purposes other than romantic love are still pretty standard). Sometimes people on this site even take norms like that and try to infer over all of human evolution. So yeah -- this is not an unreasonable thing to question.
Can you rephrase this for me? It's not parsing my language-interpreter. Certainly. Arguably, for the majority of cases it's not even relevant whether he is or isn't. In all likelihood whoever he is talking to also shares that set -- as you said, it's his "default context". Now, yes, absolutely failing to recognize that one's default context is not the sole available context can be a significant problem. But that really isn't relevant to the topic of my assertions about cognitive burden per statement of equivalent informational value and the relevance of said burden to knowing when generalizing trivial elements of a statement is a net gain rather than net loss. You know, after years of making daily calls to workers in India (I do corporate sysadmin work, for a number of various corporations) -- I still have absolutely no clue beyond the vaguest notions gleaned from the "idiot box" (TV, but at least I mean PBS-ish) about the cultural contexts of a modern urban Indian person. I really do feel like I understand more about the unspoken assumptions of Amazonian tribesmen than I do about Indian people. I do, however, find it both insulting when my offshores co-workers think they can slip insults by me through such expedients as telling me to "do the needful" in a particular tone, but I digress. Absolutely not an unreasonable thing to question, since any norm not empirically validated to exist in other monkeys (I am of the belief that all modern primates qualify monocladistically as monkeys) is simply not viable material for Evo-Psych theories without significant and rigorous documentation. ---------------------------------------- By the way, I just made an inaccurate statement for the purposes of making the statement less misleading, as I previously asserted. It has to do with my use of the term "empirically" -- I follow the thinking of Poplerian falsificationism which, while similar to empiricism, does not suffer from the problem of induction. While this one instanc
I'm reasonably confident that most intersex people are either men or women. You meant genderqueer.
It's tough to get exact numbers on the rate of intersex individuals per thousand, but I do know that the number of intersex individuals I've met and known for some time is far higher than that rate. No, I did not mean "genderqueer". This would be what you might call "too many digits beyond what's significant."
Or meant to distinguish males, females and intersex persons rather than men, women and intersex persons.

The fact is that there are a lot people who do think "women/men want" when they hear someone saying "women/men want", and don't understand that these aren't just statistical trends. And I'm pretty sure that this ends up causing considerable damage. We should whatever we can to avoid strenghtening such views.

And while you may be right that the average commenter will recognize the difference even without it being explicitly stated, I wouldn't be so sure about the average reader. Note that lukeprog has stated that the article is also aimed towards people who don't usually read LW. A random person who gets the link to this article from his Facebook feed is a lot more likely to take such claims literally than someone who has read through every post on LW.

Also, I do feel like there are tendencies towards such over-generalization even among active LW commenters. For instance, there was one case of a commenter acting condescendingly towards people he thought were carrying out preferences that were suboptimal for their sex. (Or so my memory claims: when I went to look up the details, I noticed that the relevant comments had been deleted, so I can only link to my rebuttal.)

Do you mean "The fact is that there are a lot people who do think "women/men all want" when they hear someone saying "women/men want"? Because people who interpret the author as saying something stupid are interpolating in an unwritten determiner to do that just as much as those interpolate "generally" by reading him charitably and correctly figuring out what is meant from context.
Yes. I'm having difficulty parsing this sentence.

The conscious or subconscious decision to read "women/men want" as "women/men all want" rather than "women/men generally want" is a mental step, just as the conscious or subconscious decision to read "women/men want" as "women/men generally want" rather than "women/men all want" is a step.

It's not obviously the default to read "women/men want" as "women/men all want".

In this context, to do so is a) obviously wrong to me, b) actually wrong according to the intent of the author and c) would result in the author saying something stupid rather than arguably true.

A critical reading skill is to read charitably such that the author is not saying something stupid, and I have trouble sympathizing with what I see as an abandonment of that duty by readers or commenters excusing and/or justifying that.

If I say in passing "men are taller than women", I hope I don't get assailed by people pointing out that at maturity, many women are taller than many men, or that men start as babies less than a foot or so tall, at which point almost every female is taller than they are*.

*And when I say "almost every fe... (read more)

But this presumes that the reader does already realize that a claim of the type "all men want x" (or even "the overwhelming majority of men want x") is stupid, while my point was that for many people, "all men want x" is a perfectly reasonable claim.

Do you have examples of people agreeing with what they believe to be a claim of the type "all men want x"? So far I've only seen people a) disagreeing with what they interpret as such claims on the grounds they are unreasonable and b) saying that others will mistakenly agree with the unreasonable interpretation and find it reasonable.
I seem to remember running into such people, but don't remember any particular occasion well enough to give a cite.
You can demonstrate an absurd case, but check this out: "On average, men are taller than women." Note the utter dearth of twisted, tortured forced phrasing and the way it totally requires no linguistic effort to generate that context if you just stop to think before you speak. If someone disputes that, they're either clearly wrong or have an interesting study to look at (and probably debunk). I'm a woman and I'm 6'5'' (taller than 99.9999% of women last time I checked), but I can't see what's wrong with stating it that way. Your reply is kind of a straw example of what's being asked.

This was a good example, but I think you probably missed a part of the message. Or maybe I am imagining a part that did not exist.

Generally, people are speaking imprecisely. To state one's opinion with a mathematical precision as you did, is rare. (For example, writing this paragraph I would have a problem to precisely define what "generally" and "rare" mean in this context.) And when normally speaking, people tolerate this. ...uhm, usually.

Asking people to be precise is also a signal of something. We usually don't demand perfect clarity for every sentence we ever read or hear, even on LW. I suppose we usually demand it when we disagree with one's opinion.

Placing a burden of preciseness on some people or some opinions, provides their opponents cheap counter-attacks, when they don't have to discuss the argument, only point out the impreciseness.

Now, carefully crafting one's comments into precise sentences is possible, but has a non-zero cost. So by selectively asking people, whose opinion we don't like, to be more precise than usual, we make them pay for their dissent. All while pretending that we only care about the truth, without taking sides.

Of course, people ... (read more)

I don't want "perfect clarity* from people, I want for the people on this site who make declarative statements about groups of people they're not in (especially when the implications shape their behavior toward members of that group) to be factually-accurate and not misleading in their implications. This is not a complex or censorious idea. I don't want "politically correct", I want actually correct. Do you see the difference? What I want to see is people not committing the ecological fallacy (Population X is statistically Y on average, ergo more members than not will be Y) and nobody pointing it out just because the conclusions are agreeable to a majority on this site. I do not have the power, let alone the desire, to censor you or any other poster on this site (other than by means of downvoting a comment, and I only get the one downvote).
My point was that I suspect that a presence of "politically incorrect" ideas increases our desire for actual correctness, while an absence of such ideas makes us relax. Perhaps this bias already has a name; I don't remember it. It means requiring stronger evidence to ideas you disagree with; and not being aware of it. If you require the same level of proof for both "politically correct" and "politically incorrect" comments, then it is OK. But it seems to me that in many discussions the level of proof rises up at the moment that "politically incorrect" opinions are introduced. EDIT: Of course, even if my hypothesis is true, this is not an evidence for "politically incorrect" ideas (that would just be trying to reverse stupidity). EDIT2: I would like to taboo the term "politically incorrect" in this comment, but I can't find a short enough substitute with the same expressive power. I would like to make it more group-dependent, not outside-world-dependent. It is supposed to mean: something that a decent member of this group would hesitate to say, because the morality keepers of this group will obviously disagree.
It's pretty clear that if we're dealing with ideas whose incorrect versions have great potential to do harm, then we should be careful to only disseminate the correct versions. It's a question of epistemic hygiene and minimizing the effects of contaminated mindware. If we were discussing the recipe for a food that tasted marvelous when prepared correctly, but could cause severe poisoning when prepared incorrectly, then I would want people to be precise and careful in their wording as well. "Requiring stronger evidence for ideas you disagree with" doesn't have much to do with it: it's a straightforward expected utility calculation.
Suppose someone made the comment that "men and women are equal." Would that statement be acceptable, or would it need revision for preciseness? (To try and not bias your response, I'll hold off on explaining the utility calculation I made with regards to that statement.)
What would be the context of the comment, and what sense of "equal" is implied? For instance, I probably wouldn't object to someone saying "men and women are equal" if it was clear from the context that they meant "men and women should have equal rights". On the other hand, there are a variety of well-documented statistical differences between men and women, and trying to deny some of those might be harmful. E.g. I've often heard it claimed that the difference in average pay between women and men is mostly attributable to differences in ambition and time voluntarily spent at home with children. I haven't looked at the matter enough to know if this is true. But if it is, then denying any population-level differences between men and women seems harmful, because it implies that something that actually has an innocuous explanation is because of discrimination.
I don't think I'd use the word innocuous with the example of this reason for this gender difference. If it is a rational choice, why don't both genders make similar choices?
Sexual dimorphism? (One specific example: women have ovaries, men have testes. Both organs release mind-affecting hormones, in different distributions.)
you do not address my point of the word choice 'innocuous'.
Ok: let's suppose he intended the primary definition of innocuous, "not harmful." If a choice is made voluntarily, then by the assumption of revealed preferences it is the least 'harmful.' If we forced women to choose with the same distribution that men do, then on net women would be worse off- i.e. harmed by our force. It seems incontestable to me that distributions of values are different for men and women. If values are different, choices will be different, and that is optimal.
I agree that men and women have different distributions of values due to sexual dimorphism. It isn't obvious, though, that those different values are sufficient to explain women choosing to stay and home and raise children at a greater rate than men. For example, it may be the case the women face greater social pressure to raise children or that when couples choose who should continue working and who should stay home there is an unjustified cultural assumption that women should be the ones who stay home. There may also be social pressures in the other direction: pushing men to work more than is optimal. It is harder to find social companionship as a stay at home father and Western culture ties the ability to provide for a family to man's worth. Even if these cultural norms are the product of on-average sexual dimorphism they would still harm those who deviate from the average values of their sex. A man who prefers to stay home and raise children and a woman who prefers to leave children at home to work may face additional costs to their decisions because their values deviate from what they are expected to value due to their gender.
I do not have any objection to your use of the word innocuous, here. I think that calling the choice to spend more or less time doing financially unrecompensed work in the home an innocuous gender difference, is careless. The harms of the various choices have not been evaluated that well. And it may be impossible to evaluate that harm without bias.
It is not uncompensated financially, if the alternative is hiring someone to do the same work. It may or may not be under-compensated, depending on her other options.
I find this a fascinating assertion. What other harms do you imagine might be unevaluatable?
Who would compensate them? Whose benefit is it for?
I do not really understand your questions. Can you define 'who' 'them' 'whose' and 'it'? Would, compensate, benefit, is, and for I get.
Not sure if serious. Just in case you are, however: 'them' is referring to the people doing financially unrecompensed work in the home. 'it' is the financially unrecompensed work in the home. 'Who' and 'Whose' are up to you to define - that's why they're phrased as questions, dontcha know.
I am trying to be clear about the fact that the ONLY part of this thread I care about was the use of the word 'innocuous'. All these other questions are good questions that people are asking, and answering, for themselves, and for other people, every day. Which I have no quarrel with. I do not want to answer these questions for other people. This question: is an excellent question that I actually do not want to answer, because noone has acknowledged that my point about the word innocuous is valid or valuable criticism. All the feedback I have seen so far dodges this small point to ask me much tougher questions about how individuals should be making these choices. Why me? I make no assertions other than that the word 'innocuous' in that specific argument suggests that the reasons their is gender pay inequity is harmless. Because I am not sure that it is harmless. I do not want to quantify the harm, but if you want me to take a stab at it, how about this: Do some pay inequities cause stress? Does stress aggravate some mental disorders? (for the record, I am not trying to suggest that this harm is greater to either gender!)
Point the first - Now I'm confused. Is it that or is it that "I do not really understand your questions."? Or did my explanation allow you to understand that you didn't want to answer, or... Point the second - Hypothetically, if this: is true, then gender pay inequities do have an innocuous explanation- namely, the above. Kaj_Sotala made no claims beyond that, certainly not to the extent of claiming the above statement is true in the real world. This leads me to believe your point is not valid or valuable criticism. If you think I'm wrong, could you explain why?
Your explanation couldn't possibly have cleared it up?
Well... I highly doubt it, both because the original 'confusion' seemed blindingly obvious to me and because indicates to me something other than "Oh, so that's what that was about!" In fact, it seems more along the lines of "Your clarification was not needed because I was missing the point intentionally." But in the interests of being as charitable as possible, I have edited my reply.
Than you for making clear that you do not agree that my point is valid or valuable criticism. My objection to the word choice of harmless is based on my feelings, which I have not fully examined, that there may be harm. Hypothetically, I agree with you. I think I am having the most objection, in the statement you quote, with the phrase 'mostly attributable'. I can think of several other reasons that can and do account for a gender-based inequity, all possibly innocuous. The one that springs to mind is something to do with women and negotiation of payscale, but as I look for resource that can explain what I mean by that more clearly than I have managed to, I came across another interesting theory on wikipedia, that I had never heard of before. "They interpret their findings to suggest that employers are willing to pay more for white male employees because employers are customer driven and customers are happier with white male employees. They also suggest that what is required to solve the problem of wage inequality isn't necessarily paying women more but changing customer biases." This difference does not seem so harmless. Do you agree?
I think this might be confusing pedanterrific because if I read you right above you don't agree with him. I thought your position was similar to the one I made here that that explanation of pay inequality, even if true, is not innocuous because the reason why men and women make different choices about work and home life could be harmful social pressure, or some other reason that we don't think people should have to face in an ideal world. But I could have misread you when you wrote this:
Mostly I was not sure what pedanterrific was arguing, but I asked him to clarify, and he did. I am often unintentionally funny to other people. Lately I am getting better at understanding what the 'subversion of expectations' I am committing. I absolutely agree with your point, but I was not conscious of why the word innocuous bothered me when I made my comment, and I don't actually know if I read your comments before this moment. I don't always read every comment before I respond, and I don't 'notice' consciously everything I do read. Confusions galore!
Yes, of course. That's trivially true and not in dispute. I still think you're rather missing the point, however. I don't see how it makes sense to object to the phrase 'mostly attributable' when that's a premise of the hypothetical. Let's look at the original comment in context: That is, IF [the difference is mostly attributable to something innocuous], THEN [denying population-level differences seems harmful]. That's all that was said. Kaj_Sotala never claimed the innocuous explanation was true. Editeditedit: I apologize for my horrible social skills.
Your 'horrible social skills' are almost as funny as mine! no apologies necessary! And your edits are a vast relief to me personally.
let me just say that 'like, really?' comes across as dismissive of all my efforts to explain what I care about, in the context of my original remark, and why I care about the word 'innocuous' in the hypothetical statement. I am generous to assume that are not trying to crush my will to respond with irony, and are seriously confused. But it is more difficult for me to maintain this generosity of spirit after you have already dismissed something relevant to the hypothetical argument and my objection to the word 'innocuous' as 'trivialy true and not in dispute'. And I am totally willing to maintain at least a pretense of generosity of spirit, because I have plenty of experience with losing my generosity of spirit, and I know that it keeps growing back. But I wasn't faking any enthusiasm or bewilderment before I read your comment with those two apparently dismissive word choices. "trivial" and "like". Do you believe me?
When you say: I'm reading you as actually being sincerely grateful but I'm guessing pedanterrific read you as being sarcastic.
...Oh. I think my sincerity detectors might be broken.
No, it set mine off too-- I avoided the error only by paying attention to the tone and attitude of the rest of her comments (which make sarcasm coming from her [assuming her based on gender conventions around the phonetics of the handle] look very unlikely).
No, I am sure that they are normal, and partly because my mental problem which I have mentioned elsewhere, includes depression. In person, it is very hard to tell if a depressed person is sincere or sarcastic, I just wasn't aware until now that this problem (I think call it 'affect'?) is something I also ought to consider in a pure text situation. In person I usually fake enthusiasm, but I am fortunately not that good at it. <--serious and funny, yet again. at least it was intentional.
I edited my previous comment to make my meaning clearer. Note that it's only about that one quoted line. Terminology confusion. See What is a trivial truth?. What I meant to say is, describes a difference that is definitely not "harmless" no matter what the rest of your argument states. By "not in dispute" I meant "I agree with you, and was not aware that you thought we disagreed on this subject."
OK, I think I finally understand. What was said was: One common explanation of harm and utilities is that the "real" or important utility function held by a human is that implied by the humans actions. If a human chooses A over B, that means to the human A has a higher value than B to the human. This runs us into problems, for example when humans choose B over C and C over A, but there is no agreed upon way to discuss the relationship of humans to utility functions. We just don't know how to extract the human and cut the nonsense without cutting the human! This is despite extensively discussing extrapolate volition. One way to get people to actually choose consistently among A, B, and C is to teach them about this paradox, but let's just say for our purposes here that it's clearly not out of line to discuss people's "true" preferences being something other than what they choose. Vaniver: Ok: let's suppose he intended the primary definition of innocuous, "not harmful." If a choice is made voluntarily, then by the assumption of revealed preferences it is the least 'harmful.' If we forced women to choose with the same distribution that men do, then on net women would be worse off- i.e. harmed by our force. Clarica: I think that calling the choice to spend more or less time doing financially unrecompensed work in the home an innocuous gender difference, is careless. The harms of the various choices have not been evaluated that well. One issue is that language is flexible, and it is common to see "innocuous explanation" as a way of discussing the motives of a person causing the things the explanation explains, rather than according to the usual adjective-noun relationship where the adjective modifies the noun. For example: a video teaching "how to fold a shirt" with the audio 50 decibels is a harmless explanation. The same video with the audio at 125 decibels is a harmful explanation. No one argues that the explanation itself would have only good consequences, the
I feel like this is an accurate, thoughtful, and generous explanation of the confusion I have and the confusion I cause. If I could spend my few measly karma points upvoting this, I might! After I read it, because it's late, and I can not take it all in right now. And I'm grateful for the effort, and the clarity of the parts I already understand!
Why was this downvoted?
If I had downvoted it, it would be because I can't really imagine reading "Who would compensate them?" and responding "Can you define 'who'?" as a serious attempt at communication.
And you call yourself pedantic? There were a number of referents in my comment which could have applied, and while I usually feel at no disadvantage in a battle of wits, I have a mental problem that either renders me easily confused, or fully aware that I am not a mind reader. This comment is supposed to be serious and funny. Can you guess which parts I think are funny, and why?
Ready for some meta-meta-irony? At the time I chose the username, I actually wasn't aware that "terrific" is a word people commonly misspell. At this point I'm afraid to try.
Actually, 'this comment' was self-referential. The comment you reviewed was intentionally serious, and unintentionally ridiculous. I get that a lot. But ridiculous is funny, and I totally agree with your last judgement of funny, and wish I had noticed that it was funny, BEFORE I posted. I am trying to get comfortable with being accidentally funny. I should really just stick with a pretense that everything funny I say is intentionally hilarious, instead of just occasionally patently ridiculous. Apparently.
When asked "who" would do something, asking for a definition of who is an interesting move.
Pedantic, but I think what everyone has been talking about is assigning the referent of "who", not defining it.
You rang? (That's what lessdazed is talking about as well.)
Heh, didn't mean to call you by name. I know that's what everyone was talking about - I was just clarifying because it can be read more strongly than it should be.
Apparently so. Can you explain why it is interesting? Edited to add: I assume you may be trying to explain what is interesting about my comments in the more serious and complicated response you may still be working on, but of which I have only seen the placeholder. I'd say that I can't wait, but I have already had to... In the self-referentially intentionally funny comment I make above, I was absolutely serious about having a mental problem. And about being easily confused. And about being painfully aware that I am not a mind reader. Absolutely intentionally serious, and, for a change, intentionally funny at the same time. Irony is LOST on me. or everybody else, and I have no way of telling which!
Someone (Eliezer?) once said something like: if you tell me exactly what it is that an Artificial Intelligence can't do, I can build an AI to do exactly that. If a person who believes in a fundamental difference at that sort of level between machines and animals can precisely define something, a computer can follow that definition. It doesn't work quite as well here. But if someone gives a good enough answer for their question of "who", with exactly why an animal wouldn't count, or a computer, or a corporation, they may make their question so complicated that it only has one answer or no answers as asked.
Ah. I am abnormally careful about the question of 'who would' do something. People often take my serious suggestions as playful, and vice versa. I no longer recommend a new hairstyle to anyone because I have given this advice three times, it was always taken, and I only liked the results without qualification once. I may be paranoid, but I do not like to worry about this. <-- also intentionally funny. I am trying to not to worry about whether it is true. <-- Also funny. I am taking medication for insomnia. Seriously.
So am I! But it's not working very well, hence my being awake at this hour.
Heh, when arguing for the case that people should be careful with their wording, I'm challenged for a careless choice of wording. :-) Innocuous in the sense of emerging from different-gendered people on average having different preferences and on average making different choices as a result. Me eating french fries every day, because I want to, is an innocous reason for eating french fries every day (though such behavior will probably cause health problems in the long term). Eating french fries every day because somebody pressures me into doing so, or because I genuinely can't afford anything else, is a non-innocous reason.
I absolutely agree that there are many statistical differences between men and women, and trying to deny this is actually ludicrous, whether or not it is harmful! However, I object to the word ludicrous, because while I agree that there are statistical (as well as biological and almost certainly evolutionarily-based cultural) differences between men and women, the assumption of harmlessness, based on that claim you've often heard, suggests that there is no bias involved other than personal choice. And personal choice is biased by so many other factors! And, though I did not make this clear, I was not trying to suggest that the harm was one-sided. The thing about bias was difficult for me to argue specifically until I explored the matter of pay inequity and the current state of research. Over the years I have heard a lot on the subject, which I do not remember that well. Because though it is no trivial matter to me personally, personally, If I can't identify a personal or cultural bias as actually causing me harm, I don't get that excited about it. And frankly, if I haven't identified what I should do about it, I try not to get exited about it if it is causing me harm. There are plenty of people in the world much more inclined than I to actually address the problems of gender-based pay inequities, which I think is a good thing. It pretty much seems clear to me that a lot of men care more than women about getting a big pile of negotiable tokens. Statistical. Why women do less about getting a pile of negotiable tokens, I already understand. Some of this understanding of women may be visceral, or biological. I'm pretty sure most of it is pretty self-aware, or rational as well. Why men care more I don't understand as viscerally, but I am actually trying to understand better because I would like a bigger pile of negotiable tokens to play with. :)
Suppose lukeprog put it in the ancestral post. "Clear from the context" seems like the heart of the matter, here. If it can be clear from the context that when someone says "men and women are equal," then mean the most sensible interpretation, then it seems similarly clear that a generalization with neither "some" nor "all" specified should be assumed to mean "some," not "all."
That's still insufficient context: to be able to give a definite answer, I'd need something like the paragraph the sentence was contained in. Indeed. For what it's worth, my prior for people misinterpreting "men and women are equal" is lower, though still not neglible, than my prior for people misinterpreting "all men want". But again, depending on the context either interpretation for either sentence could be blindingly obvious, not obvious at all, or anything in between.
"Taboo" itself actually sounds about right, although it carries connotations of low value that may not be what you're going for.
I misread what you meant. Sorrry for adding noise.
Yeah, I'm familiar with Rationalist Taboo, and I was looking for a substitute for "politically incorrect" fitting the description provided. "Taboo", in its sense of "culturally forbidden" rather than its sense of "party game about avoiding words", is what I came up with. Sorry if that lacked clarity. There are several reasons to play Rationalist Taboo, though; I'd assumed that the grandparent wanted to drop the phrase mainly because of its political loading (which seems to be causing some problems here), not because of any implicit assumptions or ambiguity of definition that needs to get aired out. In which case brevity would be no sin.
Precision is a way of fighting availability bias-- if all you see is "women are shorter than men" because most women are in fact shorter than most men, then it can be hard to remember that there are women who are taller than most men.
Agreed; this is also important. It also seems to lead to treating actual examples (say, of taller women) as irrelevant, simply because they're in a numerical minority.
If this was applied consistently for all low status groups I wouldn't mind it.
I'd certainly prefer it that way myself, and try to implement that in my approach to such discussions. If your objection is over our perceptions of which groups are low-status and in what contexts, say that.
I'm not saying I object (at least not in the way some have). What I'm implicitly refering to is that these kind of usage disputes only ever arise when it comes to gender relations.
Can't speak for anyone else, but I've brought this up re: race and sexual orientation as well in conversations on this site. I don't go looking for it, so the conversation usually has to be fairly current (ie, comments are showing up on the sidebar or it was recently posted to Discussion). In general I don't start conversations about such things here because I'm well aware my own beliefs and perspective on issues like this are in the minority on this site, and if there's one thing I don't need more of in my life it's arguing with a population comprised mostly of wealthy, white Libertarian-esque cisgendered/heterosexual men whether or not you can be racist/sexist/whatever without intentionally being a bigot. I'm much more apt to get involved in an existing conversation when some comment grabs my attention and I feel able to reply (or provoked to annoyance by it -- that happens). I critique what passes into my attention, assuming I've get the energy and wherewithal to get into what will most likely be another unproductive argument about it (unproductive because apparently it just feels like mind-killing politics to many of the posters here, who don't have some hands-on experience with being in a social minority and are not apt to readily grasp the difference between "I am angry/hurt by this AND think it is incorrect" and "my disagreement is purely emotional").
Downvoted for formulating the question in a way that treats vaguely defined classes of ideological transgressions as having an independent Platonic existence, implying that their properties should be discussed as if they were independently existing elements of reality, rather than a matter of definition. (And in this case there isn't even anything resembling a standard, precise, clearly stated, and consistently used definition.)
Platonic? If I step on your toe unintentionally, and you're in pain, just because I don't feel that pain (it wasn't my toe) doesn't mean that any harm done occurred either in a Platonic sense or not at all. It sure as heck doesn't mean that you're an ideologically-motivated, irrational zealot for getting mad when my response is anything other than "Whoops, sorry." I do not think we share sufficient premises to make discussion worthwhile.
Whether you feel pain or not is a fact. It's territory, not map. Whether someone is racist/sexist depends on definitions. These are categories -- which are map, not territory. I'd guess that whatever value is derived by arguing over whether someone is racist or sexist can be produced better by tabooing those words, and arguing more specifically over what the specific claim is ("would his words be offensive to a significant number of member of such group" "is he trying to increase his own group's relative power/privilege over the other group", "does he believe in an innate inferior moral worth for that group", etc, etc)

Back in the days when incorrect beliefs about the trinity could get you into trouble, it became heresy to doubt that Jesus was god. Shortly thereafter some people stopped believing he was man, which in due course also became heresy. Much drama ensued on the question of whether Christ was cosubstantial with god, or consubstantial with god, and whether the holy ghost proceeded from Christ, or God, or both, and whether God was three or one or both.

Discussions of racism are apt to develop a similar character.

On a conservative blog, the blogger will say something politically incorrect, which in less right wing circles would be deemed "racist". Then one of the commenters too plainly says something horribly racist, which is clearly implied by and logically follows from the original post on which he is commenting. The right wing blogger, of course, firmly denies his post has such horrid implications, denounces the commenter as disgustingly racist, and bans him.

Back in the days when incorrect beliefs about the trinity could get you into trouble, it became heresy to doubt that Jesus was god. Shortly thereafter some people stopped believing he was man, which in due course also became heresy. Much drama ensued on the question of whether Christ was cosubstantial with god, or consubstantial with god, and whether the holy ghost proceeded from Christ, or God, or both, and whether God was three or one or both.

Discussions of racism are apt to develop a similar character.

However, in the historical discussions of the Trinity, the opposing sides at least made it clear what exact beliefs they considered as orthodox and which heretical, and spelled out the criteria for orthodox beliefs and their official justifications at length, always ready to elaborate still further if any details remained ambiguous. (However arbitrary and illogical these official justifications may have been.)

In contrast, in the modern discussions of racism, sexism, and other ideological transgressions, it is never spelled out explicitly and clearly what exact beliefs one is supposed to profess to remain orthodox. Rather, there exists a pretense that there is a certain set of be... (read more)

On the other hand, the long lists of condemned theses, censured theses, and prohibited articles of the thirteenth century gave no real indication of what was not condemned, not censured, and not prohibited.
I think that the differences you perceive are because the analogies you and sam0345 make to "religious heresy" are really really bad ones. Christ wasn't truly around to be offended or not offended if someone got his nature wrong. Demanding adherence to a particular theology was basically just a demand by the church for complete monopoly of thinking. Disagreements about the nature of Christ were effectively attacks on the authority of the church. The best modern-day analogy to such issues of religious heresy, are probably the intra-Communist squabbles about Stalin and Trotsky and Mao and revisionism and whatever... But in regards to racism and sexism though, it's not about lowering the status of institutions like the Church or the Communist Party, but about lowering the status of groups of actual people. It's a much more... decentralized defection, and similarly it gets a much more decentralized punishment -- in Western states there's no single "punishing authority" as there used to be in Communist regimes for defections against communist ideology, or there still is in Theocratic regimes for defections against theocratic ideology.

You are presenting an oversimplified picture in both cases, and the contrast is definitely not so clear-cut.

First, the christological and other theological controversies were often only part of much broader political, ideological, ethnic, and other conflicts, involving all sorts of parties and factions both within and outside the church hierarchy. Sometimes there was also a strong populist element -- during the monophysite controversy, for example, there were plenty of spontaneous riots and pogroms. Therefore, in these controversies, the power and status of many groups and individuals was at stake, not just the interests of the Church leadership.

Second, the modern repercussions of various ideological transgressions are by no means limited to spontaneous reactions by people who feel directly targeted. For start, there is a complicated and non-obvious system that determines which groups are entitled to such reaction, so that their outrage will be supported and the offenders condemned by the respectable opinion, and which groups are OK to denigrate, so that protesting will only lower their status still further. Then, we also have a network of official intellectual institutions that ... (read more)

Surely the communist party would say something similar - and indeed it did: Trotsky complained that certain speech was a violation of freedom of speech because that speech oppressed the proletariat.
I'm sure it would, because after all that was the prime characteristic of social-fascist regimes -- claiming supposedly egalitarian-minded ideas for the pursuit of in-actuality the establishment of a new ruling class/aristocracy based on party membership. Much like corporate-capitalism propagandizes itself as meritocratic instead (while trying to form a ruling class based on control of stocks and so forth). I made an image of this some time ago: This of course doesn't mean that all egalitarian ideas exist to support the communist party elite, any more than it means that all meritocratic ideas are there to support the corporate elites.
And is that not what is happening in America today?
No, it's not.
I don't think the idea can be written off so easily. This of course gets into all sorts of extremely charged issues, but in any case, considering the historical record of egalitarian ideas in general, surely it would not be rational to take the presently dominant egalitarian ideas at face value automatically. Not to mention that for anyone familiar with the standard OB/LW motives, it should be straightforward to ask about the signaling and status issues involved. Should it be controversial to propose that, perhaps, egalitarianism is not about equality?
Cuba had obvious, striking, and severe inequality, with a strong element of racial inequality. Yet back before the fall of the Soviet Union, and for some time thereafter, visitors to Cuba tended to not only congratulate Cuba on its wonderful equality, but also themselves on being able to perceive that wonderful equality, that someone less sensitive might have failed to see. During the hungry ghosts famine in China, J.K. Galbraith observed “If there was any famine in China it was not evident in the kitchen”. The kitchen to which he refers being the kitchen of the luxury hotel his hosts provided him.
You seem to be getting into thorny theoretical questions about the nature of modern Western culture and political ideology. I don't really have much to add on that point. I was just talking about a simple question of fact: that is, most Republicans would consider the appellation of 'egalitarian' to be an insult. Edit: Actually, you know what? This is straight-up mindkilling, right here. So how about I just retract everything I contributed to this travesty of a 'conversation' and take extra care not to get sucked into this kind of thing again.
In communism, political incorrectness might get you shot, but far more likely might be taken into account when you next sought a holiday or promotion. For the most part, the enforcement of political correctness under communism was every bit as decentralized as the enforcement in the US. Similarly with thirteenth century punishment for heresy, the main punishment being that one was unlikely to receive tenure. No one respectable got tortured or burned at the stake, though Roger Bacon got solitary confinement on bread and water. And the enforcement in the US is ultimately highly centralized. The reason your boss will fire you for wrongthink is that when his business gets charged with racism, all his employees will be scrutinized for wrongthink. Most discrimination charges do not involve an employer calling a member of a protected group a derogatory name, but rather an employee revealing unapproved views unaware that there are spies present who will rat on him. A member of a protected group heard of the unapproved views - in some cases he would had to have been listening at keyholes to have discovered the unapproved views and have his feelings hurt, and I suspect that in fact these unapproved views were only discovered during the disclosure phase, and the complainant could hypothetically have heard them at the keyhole, rather than actually heard them. For the most part, enforcement of political correctness under communism worked in exactly the same way as in the US - through employment and academic admissions.
I notice a glaring omission from your list of questions. Namely "are his words if interpreted as a factual claim and/or argument true and/or valid"
I agree these are helpful paraphrases-- but as a practical matter increasing the burden on the person trying to point out the offense or marginalization isn't necessarily a good idea since it often very difficult for people to call their friends and acquaintances on such matters. For example, I imagine it is very difficult for a black person surrounded by white people to call out behavior that makes them feel marginalized-- there is a great deal of social pressure against this. In normal social contexts a minority should be free to express how something makes them feel without being expected to enter into an extended defense of the matter. Here at Less Wrong, I almost always translate "is x-ist" in the way you suggest and think it is worthwhile where the goal of the discussion is truth seeking (I'm not a member of many relevant minorities, though)
Yes, Platonic -- and it's easy to demonstrate that it follows in a straightforward manner from your phrasing. To stick with the (relatively) less incendiary of the two, consider the notion of "sexism." Discussing whether some institution, act, or claim is "sexist" makes sense only if at least one of these two conditions applies: 1. There is some objectively existing Platonic idea of "sexism," so that whether something is "sexist" is ultimately a question of fact that must have an objectively correct yes or no answer. 2. There is a precise and agreed-upon definition of "sexism," so that whether something is "sexist" is, assuming agreement on questions of fact, ultimately a question of logic (i.e. whether the given facts satisfy the definition), which also must have an objectively correct yes or no answer. Now, the option (2) is clearly out of the question. This is because the term inherently implies that any "sexist" claim does not belong to the set of reasonable and potentially correct claims and a "sexist" institution or act is outside the bounds of what is defensible and acceptable -- while at the same time nobody has ever given any definition of "sexism" that wouldn't be either so restrictive as to make most of the common usage of the term inconsistent with the definition, or so broad as to make many reasonable and defensible claims and institutions "sexist," thus again contradicting this essential implication of the term. Also, the very fact that you talk about "arguing [...] whether or not you can be [...] sexist [...] without [property X]" implies that there exists some Platonic idea of "sexism," since otherwise it would be a trivial question of whether property X is included in the definition.
It is trivial. Jandila's definition of sexism and racism does not include the speaker being a bigot as a necessary criterion. Now, I often complain to my anti-subordination activisty friends that a lot of people don't realize their definitions of racism and sexism don't imply that. It's a problem since people tend to get more defensive than they need to be when someone points out something they did or said that is racist, sexist, anti- gay, etc. But people getting defensive after they know these words don't imply bigotry really is silly. And yet it still happens-- which is why Jandila doesn't always have the patience to deal with it.
That's because words like "bigot, racist, sexist, anti- gay" are frequently used to sneak in conotations that the argument in question (and by extension the person making it) is somehow immoral and can be dismissed without looking at its validity, or at the very least requires us to engage in motivated continuation until the argument has been "rationally" dismissed. If you and Jandila don't mean to sneak in these connotations, say so; however, in that case you should probably pick a word that doesn't have these connotations in common usage.
I didn't mind being told my behavior pattern matches with that of bad people's by people who I thought think probabilistically. If someone were to see me handcuffed in the back of a police car with blood all over me, they should think me more likely to have killed someone than if they hadn't seen that. If they concluded I killed someone because they saw me there, they would just be stupid.
Scary thing is: The jury is made up of these people!
All I really need is for two (Asch conformity) of twelve regular people who accept stupid arguments to accept arguments I am not guilty, or one nut juror, or one intelligent juror.
I am reticent to discuss this without there being any object level issue-- I don't trust either side's claims about how these words are 'frequently used'. I would be comfortable evaluating a specific instance of the use of these words but I suspect discussion of how they tend to be used will just leave people insisting on generalities that flatter their own ideology. Both sides have ways of framing the other's rhetorical techniques as harmful and destructive to honest communication. And both sides are often oblivious to what the other side is saying. Usually when words like sexist and racist are thrown out the users usually have reasons why they used those words instead of others despite (or I guess sometimes because of) connotations. But again, those reasons can't be evaluated in abstract.
I think that the burden of proof is on those criticizing authors for using particular language. It ought to disqualify the prosecutors from bringing such cases if there can't be evidence to support them, so it seems to me you're on a "side" if you think that.
Both sides are criticizing the other for using particular language. Bob says x. Susan says saying x is racist (criticizing Bob). Bob says saying something is racist sneaks in connotations (criticizing Susan). I don't know what you're talking about here. Edit: If I understand you right I guess I don't see a justification for 'burden of proof' type analyses except in literal court rooms. There usually isn't a reason for them other than presumption and status quo bias.
The criticisms are importantly different. "Susan says saying x is racist." There is nothing wrong with that statement, but "arguing [...] whether or not you can be racist/sexist/whatever without intentionally being a bigot," is confused, though not necessarily accusatory. "Bob says saying something is racist sneaks in connotations." Bob is saying something not confused, but coherent and accusatory. "If you and Jandila don't mean to sneak in these connotations, say so;" is unfair. Bob has to address the argument as if those connotations were not intended, even if they probably were (in his mind), or weren't but probably are so misinterpreted by others (in his models of them), he can't decline to address the actual argument unless he has overwhelming evidence that it was designed primarily to manipulate and not substantially to present evidence. If it's easier for Bob to show the argument is dishonest rather than refute it, it's fine to let him do that if he feels it is better for some reason, and I don't think Bob owes an explanation of how the argument was wrong or even an honest attempt to try and understand it, depending on how sinuous and sinuous it was.
(...) The problem is that without the connotations associated with the word, Susan's statement doesn't even constitute a counter argument.
Susan's statement isn't supposed to be a counter argument, just an argument. (When I described the situation above I could have as easily started with "Bob does something racist" instead of "says. She may or may not have a propositional disagreement with what Bob said.) [And now we have two threads about Bob. He is apparently both a racist and terrible with women.]
The presumed purpose of the statement is to criticize Bob's argument and/or action. To do this it relies on the connotations of the word "racist".
It relies on the implication that the user of the word frowns on racisms and that other people ought to as well. This is different from the connotation that someone who does something racist must be intentionally bigoted or some kind of secret white supremacist. The difference is that the first is merely a normative implication that is obvious to everyone while the second suggests additional beliefs about Bob that are being snuck in but not officially defended by anyone.
That's still sneaking in connotations unless deserving to be frowned upon is part of the definition of "racism". However, in that case Susan needs to establish that the action and/or argument deserves to be frowned upon in addition to satisfying the other parts of the definition of racism to justify her claim that the action and/or argument is indeed "racist". Notice that what you called "defensiveness" in the comment that started this sub-thread is simply Bob pointing out that she hasn't done so. Essentially Susan is trying to argue that Bob's action and/or argument is racist and hence by definition bad. This argument runs into the problem Eliezer discusses in that article.
Too many guards were facing the wrong direction until now. The problem isn't so much that connotations may sneak in, it's that relevance may sneak out. That's why I said some things were confused and not even an argument: the key step was that a label applied and everything with that label was invalid, and that thinking something is an argument doesn't make it so be it sentences or even a string of arbitrary characters, and so on. It's too difficult and too costly in terms of accusations made and inferences drained from language to zealously guard against bad connotations.
No, it's merely an assumption in polite society. Bob is free to say that he doesn't care that he's being racist-- but that is not what he is being defensive about. The defensiveness is in response to the connotation which Jandila at the very start of the thread disclaimed: There is a connotation that doing something racist or sexist means you're intentionally trying to hurt people, that you're a bad person instead of just making a mistake or being ignorant. When I say there is an implication to the word "racism" that my activist friends aren't paying attention to I'm talking about that not the implication that a racist statement shouldn't be said. Note, those activist friends consider everyone a racist, themselves included.
You're still trying to sneak in connotations, notice how you seem to be trying to exclude the possibility that a statement you describe as racist could actually be true, or that an action you describe as racist could actually be rational. Also, why are you getting so defensive about my pointing out that you're sneaking in connotations? There is a connotation that sneaking in connotations or exhibiting some other bias means you're intentionally trying to mislead people, that you're a bad person instead of just making a mistake or being ignorant. Note, people on lesswrong consider everyone biased, themselves included.
I don't notice how I seem to be doing it, actually. Clever. It's actually a good analogy. I'm really not getting defensive, just frustrated that you seem to be misunderstanding me (which is weird because I thought your original comment understood me perfectly).
The statement I quoted: seems to imply that the only reason one would make a "racist" statement is either out of a desire to hurt people or out of ignorance. One difference is that the definition of bias as used on lw does explicitly include the requirement that they provide incorrect results, as such I've been providing you with links to the relevant lesswrong articles. One reason I did that is so you could see how annoying arguments of the form: "Why are you getting so defensive about my accusing you of bad thing X, X doesn't imply worse thing Y?" are when you're on the receiving end of them.
What if someone thought that even with the connotations associated with the word, it still wouldn't constitute a counter argument?
Then why did Susan make that statement at all?
Any arbitrary string of characters djRX3YeKTQUw BdIml13Ep6vAqa8WdflzY 7adQKSEXDp0paMg7K87 pKw4CCey C068tqagUkSs7H7HsCZdA 84MaxAJr4VwIV28tASRPcDO1Wtv1Oh02DTyFyaM PcAOPJ2CLBnztEG6 4kvjZ3aTKHEcPMN2gjOjzuWB pdzmu9hPRQnmYEJZ Uy6Q96cIkguaYbgwJcte
Is that a ponycode?
It's ponycode for: "may subjectively be considered a counterargument but that doesn't make it important. The statement was made because it was intended to make a certain point, even though its mechanism was to exclude things from consideration based on a labeling criteria too many steps removed from truth."
Btw, Could you provide your definition of "bigot"? I've gotten a vague idea of what you mean by the word from context, but I'd like to see your formulation. (Note: be prepared to explain why being a "bigot" is obviously a "very bad thing".)
Wikipedia looks fine: I am not so prepared-- though it doesn't seem especially controversial to me I am vaguely open to an argument that it isn't obvious. But I don't see why I should be expected to explain why.
So if I believe that, say, religion X is wrong and its teachings are immoral, do I qualify as a bigot under this definition?
Only if you are therefore hostile to its members.
Depending on what you mean by "hostile" that may be a perfectly reasonable course of action.
Thats a unique example in that definition, that, in retrospect I should have perhaps left out. Unlike the other groupings religion partly consists in beliefs and values which I think it is often important to be hostile to. Those beliefs and values are closely tied to the culture of a religion which I don't think people should be hostile to. I would not call someone a bigot for criticizing, mocking or insulting the beliefs and values associated with a particular religion. Doing the same to the people themselves or the culture, purposefully, and not the result of merely being uninformed or temporarily blinded would make a person a bigot.
What exactly is the criterion for being an element on the list?
Obviously it's specific contents are political and I don't necessarily think it is complete (or as we seen without mistakes)-- but the criteria for an ideal list is something like 'classes of people that agents cannot help but be members of'.
And that's the problem given that politics is the mindkiller.
Yeah. It's a mess of a hard problem. Thats why I try not to talk about it here because nobody is good at talking about it rationally. I'm not defending every instance of someone calling something racist, sexist etc. I'm not defending everything the people who tend to do it nor the list of groups they do it for. That being the case I don't think the solution is to deny the harms people are talking about when they complain about racism, sexism etc. And it's going to get talked about at some point just like all politics.
Nor is the solution to suppress discussion of statements that could be construed as bigoted. Even statements about race and IQ, or whether homosexuality is a sexual deviance. To be fare, the main problem on LessWrong, as opposed to the world in general, is people engaging in motivated stopping and motivated continuation when discussing these topics in an attempt to avoid being sexist (for some reason race is less of a problem) and/or bigots.
Does this question have empirical content that constrains my anticipated experiences? Or is it just a value judgment? I don't think there is a lot of room or reason to discuss terminal or near-terminal value judgments. I find that criticism along the lines of "Stop valuing that, it's a character defect" is a perfectly reasonable response to terminal value judgments that I disagree with (though I try not to penalize people for value disagreement here since people with bad values can still be insightful about factual matters). With something like race and IQ I don't think they should be suppressed and haven't tried to suppress them (I have comments elsewhere lamenting such suppression). But do think it is reasonable to expect those conversations to occur at a higher level than they have so far. For whatever reason the most vocal advocates of genetic inheritance as an explanation for the race IQ gap have been worse than average commenters. A while back I linked to an article Steve Hsu wrote on the subject, he showed up and there was briefly a really good back and forth on the subject. But for the most part discussion of the subject here consists of anecdotal evidence, baseless claims and people on both sides paying no attention to the relevant studies or population genetics. It is worthwhile in these cases, I think, for people to do what they can to avoid pattern matching with something designed to demean or oppress people. Both to avoid hurting people unnecessarily and to avoid triggering mind-killing. You don't have to sound like George Cuvier to argue for a genetic explanation of the race IQ-gap. Edit: Though apparently we can't even talk about talking it without the both of us being downvoted.
I had in mind something like this. About race and IQ, that really hasn't been a problem here. Part of the problem is how politicized population genetics has become. I should probably have listed as an example something like talking about PUA and whether it works, because that has caused problems here, despite being less controversial in the outside world. Welcome to my reality. ;)
The only thing that offended me was the one value judgment in the bunch: And I'm not offended on behalf of homosexuals but on behalf of BDSMers and kinky people who take those styles and practice them, but only between consenting adults. The rest of the piece, I think, exhibited a lot of ignorance about modern homosexual and heterosexual sex and desire and an overconfidence in historical records about romantic homosexuality. But I think you might be surprised at how similar his point is to that made by some radical queer theorists I've read.
They exist, but they're mostly all tangled up in whatever hybrid of Marxism and/or postmodernism is in vogue. Add in a sprinkling of half-understood genetics, evolution, and evolutionary psychology, and it's just a monstrous headache every paragraph.
The one I have in mind is Lee Edelman. He quotes Hegel a lot. He does philosophy from an English department and works in post-structuralism and, wait for it, psychoanalytic theory. Probably not Less Wrong's cup of tea. He does show gay porn in his lectures, though. Anyway, he critiques what he calls "reproductive futurism", by which he means the norms and values that serve to continue civilization in the traditional sense: "The children are our future", the fact that political appeals on behalf of children are impossible to refuse, heterosexual marriage, the nuclear family, and the entire political edifice he sees as built up around the idea. He sees the figure of the queer person as someone left out of this social order. He suggests that rather than (or maybe in addition to) fighting for the right to join in the social order--through joining the military openly, gay marriage, gay adoption etc. gays and lesbians should resist the entirety of reproductive futurism. He positively quotes conservatives for accurately revealing just how it is queers lie outside the established social order. I suspect he might see the "romantic homosexuality" style in the above linked blog post as acquiescence to reproductive futurism. [That make sense to anyone? Just trying to translate the ideas into something reasonable sounding.]
Even if they succeed in that goal all they'll do is cause the affected culture to evolve to extinction. This is more or less what conservatives have been accusing the gay-rights movement of being a cover for since day one.
Many comments like this one get net upvotes. Are you concerned with total or net votes? What are your net votes from such discussions? How possible would it be for you to reshape downvoted-type comments into upvoted-type comments, particularly because any one downvoted comment is unlikely to have received much of your editing attention? Comments expressing the lament of "people on both sides" are likely to be downvoted by me. I have many similar loose heuristics, such as "vote down people arguing by definition", "vote up people changing their mind", "vote up people citing sources", "vote down people who do not apply the principle of charity", and "vote up comments in which people correctly use the word 'literally'". You're unlikely to avoid tripping any if you make multiple comments, but I think each is fair and generally the type of content I want to see gets communicated. Consequently I suggest being less concerned by total downvotes, even if your only other change is to be more concerned with net downvotes. It's not really supposed to be possible to avoid tripping any wire any reader has. But I don't see you getting net downvotes, so I'm not sure if that is instead your complaint...because that would be weird, as getting a near balance of favorable and unfavorable reviews isn't too harsh a form of censorship.
I'm concerned not with my karma total but with the net-negative karma score for individual comments. A net negative karma for a comment signals that Less Wrong does not want to see that comment. When I see net negative comments I try to figure out why. For any one comment there are lots of possible explanations for downvoting. But when I see a trend that suggests downvoting heuristics I think are bad I sometimes publicly lament those heuristics. For example, I see a lot of bad pattern matching downvoting where people say things that unexamined resemble theistic apologist arguments. Taking any position that could be considered political also seems to be subject to downvoting. Especially when that position is inconsistent with the values of the local demographic cluster. Laments of downvote heuristics seems to be a rather unpopular comment type as well. These heuristics have a chilling effect on the discussions of those subjects and partly explain Eugine's complaint: Fair enough as a heuristic, though I'll note I made it pretty clear which side I thought was worse in the preceding sentences. But don't worry about your downvote- the heuristic you used was fine by me.
Laments of downvote heuristics seem to be about why the complainer's immediately preceding comments were downvoted. How often are such complaint framed as laments that political allies were downvoted, much less neutrals or opponents? If everyone writing a comment of content type X also always added spam links, I would downvote overconfident speculation about why people don't like content X and how that makes them bad people.
Outside of threads I'm personally involved in, I try to downvote any comment which seems detrimental to the overall signal-to-noise ratio on LW. Most often that means posts which are statistically illiterate, incoherent, obviously biased, or poorly written, which I imagine should be uncontroversial. Beyond content and style, though, it's also possible for a post's framing to lower the signal-to-noise ratio through a variety of knock-on effects. Usually this happens by way of halo effects and their negative-affect equivalent (let's call that a miasma effect, if it lacks a proper name): arguments matching religious apologia too closely, for example, tend to trigger a cluster of negative associations in our largely atheistic audience that prime it for confrontation even if the content itself is benign. Likewise for comments with political framing or drawing unwisely from political examples. I don't usually click the downvote button on comments like these until there's evidence of them actually causing problems, but that's sufficiently common that I still end up burning a lot of votes on them. I submit that this isn't a bad heuristic. It's one that shouldn't be necessary if we were all free from emotive priming effects, but we clearly aren't, and exposing ourselves to many sources of them isn't going to help us get rid of the problem; in the meantime, discouraging such comments seems like a useful way of keeping the shouting down.
If someone is going to be pulling a thread dangerously close to politics, we should expect those comments to be held to a higher standard.
What do you label with that symbol? How do you know no aspect of any of them should be criticized, mocked, or insulted?
Good point. Consider it striked.
I had assigned what felt like a 10% probability to your defending that without falling to the no true Scotsman fallacy, so I am disappointed.
Also, what do you mean by hostile? If I believe it's better for people not to have behavioral disorders or/and addictive disorders develop a treatment and encourage people with said disorders to take it, am I being hostile? What if I do the same w.r.t. homosexuality? BTW, if the answer to both those questions is "no", I have no further problem with the definition.
Treating someone like an enemy. Shrug. I don't have a clear bright line or anything, the amount and intensity of bigotry someone must exhibit before I'm comfortable calling them a bigoted person is pretty high. In both cases it depends on why you want people to take the treatment. We're now very far from what was a pretty contingent defense of another commenter's position and I don't especially enjoy the topic...
Replace "sexism" by "X". Do you think this alternative is still valid? Or maybe you should elaborate on why you think "sexism" gives rise to this alternative.
Of course it is still valid, unless X corresponds directly to some observable and clearly identifiable element of physical reality, so that its existence is not Platonic, but physically real. Obviously it wouldn't make sense to discuss whether someone has, say, committed theft if there didn't exist a precise and agreed-upon definition of what counts as theft -- or otherwise we would be hunting for some objectively existing Platonic idea of "theft" in order to see whether it applies. Now of course, in human affairs no definition is perfectly precise, and there will always be problematic corner cases where there may be much disagreement. This precision is ultimately a matter of degree. However, to use the same example again, when people are accused of theft, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the only disagreement is whether the facts of the accusation are correct, and it's only very rarely that even after the facts are agreed upon, there is significant disagreement over whether what happened counts as theft. In contrast, when people are accused of sexism, a discussion almost always immediately starts about whether what they did was really and truly "sexist," even when there is no disagreement at all about what exactly was said or done.
Of course? There must be a miscommunication. Do you think it makes sense to discuss, say, intelligence, friendship or morality? Do you think these exist either as physically real things or Platonic ideas, or can you supply precise and agreed-upon definitions for them? I don't count any of my three examples physically real in the sense of being a clearly identifiable part of physical reality. Of course they reduce to physical things at the bottom, but only in the trivial sense in which everything does. Knowing that the reduction exists is one thing, but we don't judge things as intelligent, friendly or moral based on their physical configuration, but on higher-order abstractions. I'm not expecting us to have a disagreement here. I wouldn't consider any of the examples a Platonic idea either. Our concepts and intuitions do not have their source in some independently existing ideal world of perfections. Since you seemed to point to Platonism as a fallacy, we probably don't disagree here either. So I'm led to expect that you think that to sensibly discuss whether a given behaviour is intelligent, friendly or moral, we need to be able to give precise definitions for intelligence, friendship and morality. But I can only think that this is fundamentally misguided: the discussions around these concepts are relevant precisely because we do not have such definitions at hand. We can try to unpack our intuitions about what we think of as a concept, for example by tabooing the word for it. But this is completely different from giving a definition. This only reflects on the easiest ways of making or defending against particular kinds of accusations, not at all on the content of the accusations. Morality is similar to sexism in this respect, but it still makes sense to discuss morality without being a Platonist about it or without giving a precise agreed-upon definition.
Well, morality is such an enormous and multi-sided topic that what usually matters in a concrete situation is only some particular small subset of morality. A discussion can be meaningful if there is agreement on the issue at hand, even if there is disagreement otherwise. So to take the same example again, if we're discussing whether someone is a thief (i.e has committed the sort of immoral behavior that is called "theft"), it doesn't matter if we define murder differently, as long as we define theft the same. But yes, of course that discussing whether a given behavior is intelligent, friendly, or moral makes sense only if we agree on the definitions of these terms. As I said above, in practice our definitions about human affairs are always fuzzy and incomplete to some degree, so there will always be disagreement at least in some corner cases, and discussions will be meaningful as long as they stick to the broader area of agreement. However, in case of friendship, intelligence, and most issues of morality, people typically agree at least roughly on the relevant definitions, so the usage of these words is usually meaningful. Also, when people agree on definitions, it doesn't matter if they are able to state these definitions precisely and explicitly, as long as there is no disagreement on whether the definitions are satisfied assuming given facts. Giving a precise definition of "friendship" would be a difficult task for most people, but it doesn't matter since there is no significant disagreement on what behavior is expected from people one considers as friends, and what behavior should disqualify them. One the other hand, when someone makes vague ideological accusations such as "sexism," there is no such agreement at all, and a rational discussion can't even being before a clear definition of the term is given.
the problem is that the pain is not caused by someone stepping on your toe, but by someone showing subtle but detectable signs of thinking thoughts that you disagree with. The pain caused by someone committing thought crime against you has a more dubious ontological status than the pain caused impact upon your toe. A typical example of this is the word "gay", the latest polite euphemism for male homosexual, the latest of a great many. Like every other polite euphemism for anything, it has become a swear word, a swear word that unlike Carlin's list of seven words you used not to be able to say on TV, still has the power to shock. Indeed, as soon as one creates a new euphemism, it implies that the thing that it is a euphemism for is unmentionably disgusting, thus becomes good swear word, depriving the euphemism of the niceness that is the essential characteristic of a euphemism, while rendering all previous euphemisms for the thing (of which there are usually large number) too disgusting to speak. The pain caused by the inevitable and inexorable transition from euphemism to curse word is fundamentally different from the pain caused by stepping on your toes. It is more like the pain caused by losing an election, or someone banging a prettier girl than you banged. The tenth commandment forbids you to experience or admit to experiencing certain kinds of pain. Not all pains have equal status as cause for complaint. You cannot help feeling pain if someone steps on your toes, but you can and should help feeling certain other forms of pain, which forms of pain are therefore less real.
The problem is that some insults (and this is currently true about those relating to homosexuality) get backed up with violence and/or with serious social exclusion-- they aren't "just words". Also, people don't reliably put abuse behind them. Their reactions to threats that it might start up again are quite strong. The situation is complicated by the fact that these reactions can be amplified by social effects. Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness has the thesis that, because overt racism isn't socially acceptable but covert racism still goes on, both black and white Americans search for more and more subtle clues to whether people are racist. This looks insane, but is a rational response to a difficult situation.
It is unclear to me that those consequences were unintended.
I think you're overestimating people's competence, but it's hard to tell about that sort of thing. What's your line of thought?
I'm not sure it's a line so much as it's an impression. Strategists try to reshape battlefields to give themselves the high ground. I'm not sure I can articulate anything worth updating on, but I'll think about it and get back to you if I come up with anything.
Hmm... I'd have guessed it was less about being a euphemism and more about English-speakers wanting to have a one-syllable word instead of a five-syllable one, much like "straight" is a one-syllable word for "heterosexual", without this meaning that hetero sex is "unmentionably disgusting". Even from childhood we know that pain caused by deliberate insults often hurts more than physical fights. People should not seek to take offense where none was meant -- but when offense is meant, and you know it's meant, not being hurt is often harder than ignoring a merely stepped-upon toe. A deliberate insult can linger all day in your mind when a toe is soon forgotten.
Supporting evidence: American English speakers weren't even content with a two syllable word meaning that homo sex is "unmentionably disgusting", and it's been shortened to one syllable.
But the original word was "queer"... which is now not a curse after having been reclaimed.
On a tangential note, this usage of "reclaim" has always bothered me. "Queer" didn't start out with positive or neutral connotations. It has not been reclaimed by the GLBT movement, it has been appropriated. Reclamation denotes previous ownership, something that simply doesn't apply when you look at the historical relationship between the words that are being "reclaimed" and the groups that are claiming them, but it's chosen for its connotations of legitimacy, since people are less likely to object to your taking back what's rightfully yours.
I find amusing the notion of bigots launching a campaign to reclaim "queer" as an insult.
Once again guessing, I'd say that "queer" and "bent" were both at a time abandoned by the gay community (even though "bent' is of course the actual counterpart of "straight") because of the negative connotations of weirdness in the former case, and something that's not in its proper shape in the latter. "Gay" persisted because it was the first name whose alternate connotations were positive (being merry/carefree). I don't know why "queer" became acceptable to be reclaimed again, but I'm wondering whether it's because "weird" is not really seen as a bad thing anymore -- "geek" has also become a badge of honor after all, though it once used to be an insulting word.
Geek was actually the specific term for a carnival entertainer who bites the heads off of live chickens, before it became a generic term of abuse, before it became a specific term for someone who is passionate about a particular interest.
I may never think of Best Buy's tech support department the same way again...
Also possibly because the original meaning of "weird" has become lost, or at least outmoded, as a result of tarnishing by association with the slur. Nowadays, high school and college literature professors have to preface discussions of Moby-Dick with a disclaimer to the effect that the passage has nothing to do with sexuality at all. (Melville knew what he liked, I guess.)
--Moby Dick
That makes sense.
There were lots of words before queer.
I can only imagine how Roy Cohn felt during the Army-McCarthy hearings when Joseph Welch quipped that "a pixie is a close relative of a fairy"...
We already have more one syllable euphemisms for male homosexual than I can shake a stick at, each of which became a curse word, and each of which was supplanted by another euphemism. The most recent one previous to gay was "queer". The same usually happens with other euphemisms for other undesirable characteristics - for example "retard". Euphemisms do not work. If the thing being referred to was OK, we would not be looking for euphemisms, thus euphemising merely draws attention to the fact that the thing being referred to is not OK.
Marginalizing or diminishing people due to the socially enforced classes they belong to is not at all the same thing as "showing subtle signs of thinking thoughts you disagree with". Feeling demeaned or socially excluded is a fundamentally different kind of pain than that caused by having one's toe stepped on: it is a much more damaging one.
Feeling demeaned is painful and can be worse than having one's toe stepped on. But some people are allowed to complain about it, and other people are not. It's like saying that stepping on someone's toe is bad, but some people by definition don't have toes. If they claim to have toes too, it only proves their malice -- by pretending to have toes they want to make us less sensitive about the pain of the real toe owners. If you officially don't have a toe, then everyone is free to step on your toe, because officially it didn't happen. Other people then tell you how lucky you are for not having a toe. Then they accuse you of lack of empathy towards people who have their toes stepped on.
If you mean that there are classes of marginalized people who aren't allowed or aren't capable of objecting to mistreatment I agree. And I would agree that the cluster of people that cares a lot about racism, sexism, etc. often doesn't see such people as deserving justice. When male victims of domestic violence feel excluded by feminist discussions of domestic violence which vilify men for example-- I think that counts as a real harm. But that does not mean everyone's claim to having had their toe stepped on deserves equal respect or credibility. Claims of harm due to anti-white racism, as if it were equivalent to anti-black racism are really implausible and people taking offense to the suggestion of equivalence is reasonable. This is why I don't agree with the anti-subordination activist's position of privileging first person accounts of dis-empowered people when defining the scope of bigotry and injustice. I think neutral principles of some sort are required to sort out claims of injustice-- but of course I don't know how to arrive at such principles and think it is likely that any criteria I propose will be based on concern for protecting my politically favored groups. And that would be bad. In short, this stuff is really complicated and I'm not really aligned with much anyone on the subject.
The question "Is it easier to beat action game levels on normal mode, or on hard mode with an infinite ammunition cheat on?" would be ill-posed.
Sorry, don't follow the metaphor.
Assuming it wasn't a metaphor, it would still obviously be ill-posed though, right? It may be that one game can be beaten by someone only on normal, but all levels but one are easier on hard with unlimited ammo. Or that one game is easier on normal and another easier with unlimited ammo on hard. One level might require 72 hours of straight gameplay to beat on hard with unlimited ammo, but such a victory might be reliably achieved, and a 9/10 chance of death each run on normal, with success determined by the third minute. The metaphor is that people have different advantages and disadvantages. The one person whose challenge is difficulty conserving grenades and separating enemies to confront as few at a time as possible might have little in common with the person whose challenge is grouping enemies such that the fastest and slowest are each hit by as many of his individual grenade throws as possible.
Edit: Never mind. I got it. That there are different advantages and disadvantages does not mean that there cannot be, on net, one group that dominates another.
And by abduction: lack of empathy for people who have thorns in their side, lack of empathy for those weak at the knees, and eremikophobia (fear of sand).
I'd be intrigued to see an example of an argument for the statement: "You can't be racist/sexist/whatever without intentionally being a bigot" because I have never seen that sentiment expressed in my life. And I find it hard to see many people agreeing with it. Reasoning that it is false is far too simple.* *(imagine a world where the general belief is that green people are brutish and ignorant, and should be killed on sight. Now imagine a farmer who has been told this, and believes it, and has never seen any evidence to the contrary. Has he ever made a decision of the form "Should I be bigoted? Yes I should"?)
You raise a good point, and that's that definitions are unclear and there is little consensus on them. I'm not making my meaning explicit enough, and should probably taboo the words I'm using here.
I've often observed people defend themselves or others against accusations of racism, sexism, and whatever by replying that they are not intentionally being bigoted. It's not ridiculous to infer from that observation that many people believe that, in order to be racist/sexist/whatever, one must be intentionally bigoted. That said, I think it's the wrong inference. What I infer from it is instead that many people emotionally reject such accusations and grab whatever arguments they can think of to counter them, even arguments that depend on premises that many of those same people would rightly reject as absurd when phrased in the abstract.
(Comment retracted because it was based on a misreading.) So, according to you, what is the definition of being "racist/sexist/whatever" that would allow us to draw the conclusion that this inference is wrong? And what is the reason why we should agree on this definition? To consider a less controversial analogy, if you are accused of theft, there are multiple necessary conditions in the standard definition of theft that you can use to counter the accusation if your act did not involve any one of them. For example, you might argue that the property claim of the accuser is invalid, that the taking was unintentional or done under duress or out of life-saving necessity, that the act is excusable under the de minimis principle, etc., etc. Now, if it often happens that there is a complete agreement on facts but there is still a disagreement on whether a given act constitutes theft, we can only conclude that the definition of "theft" is controversial and non-standardized, so it doesn't make any sense for people to talk about "theft" before they've made it explicit what exact definition they apply. Which indeed may be the case -- sometimes there are conflicts between people coming from cultures or milieus that have very different ideas on what constitutes a valid property claim, what counts as duress or necessity, what is excusable under de minimis, and so on. Such conflict has no objectively correct resolution, and the outcome depends on who will prevail by means other than rational discussion of facts and logic. And if it makes sense to accuse someone of theft, it is only under the assumption that there is an agreed-upon definition of theft that is clearly satisfied by the fact asserted in your accusation. Yet unlike this analogy, you seem to believe that there is some objective sense in which someone is "racist/sexist/whatever," despite the evident lack of agreement on what these terms are supposed to mean, or even whether they make any sense at all.
Nope, I don't believe that "racism" (etc.) is any more objectively defined a category than "theft", and I don't think there's any particular definition of it we should all agree on. I agree with you that disagreements about category membership can arise even when there's agreement on facts, both with respect to "racism" (etc.) and more or less every other human category. (This is not surprising, given that the way human brains categorize percepts and concepts maps very imperfectly to how we imagine definitions working; the whole idea of categories having definitions is a very poor approximation of what's going on. But that's a digression.) If anything I've said implies that "racism" or any other category has an objective definition in the sense you seem to mean here, I've completely missed that implication and am likely very confused. If you feel inclined to unpack what it was I said that implies that, I'd be appreciative.
Looking back, it seems like I misunderstood your comment. Specifically, I misinterpreted what exactly the "wrongness" in the last paragraph refers to, which makes my criticism inapplicable. My apologies.
No worries; glad the confusion was easily remediable.
Why is this being downvoted?
Dunno. Didn't cite any sources I guess. ;p
I downvoted it for the following claim: "many of the posters here, who don't have some hands-on experience with being in a social minority and are not apt to readily grasp the difference between "I am angry/hurt by this AND think it is incorrect" and "my disagreement is purely emotional")." I think it is unfair to say they do not understand when they may simply believe that motivated cognition is occurring or similar.
I tried.
Misleading-ness isn't a property of a statement, but of a statement-interpreter pair. So if people claim statements are misleading because some other minds will misinterpret it to the detriment of their in-group, when there is no sign such misinterpreters exist in significant number, that seems like a power grab (independent of the question of whether or not that group should have more power) at the expense of the principle of charity. Thus wouldn't be the case if people were leaving comments arguing against what they thought were authors' beliefs with them wrong about the author's beliefs, or agreeing with what they thought were the authors' beliefs with them wrong about the author's beliefs.
This comment is shockingly insightful and I would like to thank you for it.
Now now, insight like that might slow the evaporative cooling that has been happening on Lesswrong when it comes to gender and sexuality (and to a much lesser extent on all unPC matters). Thinkers here used to be much less burdened by this, makes even a fool hard pressed to chuckle.
I would tend to be one of them. But no woman or man is a 'women'/'men'. What the group -- as a second-order simulacrum -- wants isn't necessarily what an individual instantiation of the group wants. Given that all I have to work with is your quoting him as saying "a certain behavior" is suboptimal (in a manner so vague I haven't a clue what position either of you were staking out) -- I cannot begin to make any informed statements on that topic. Just to play devil's-advocate here -- have you considered the possibility that your feeling here represents an over-generalization about LW'ers over-generalizing?
Maybe. But I didn't make any claims about exactly how common this attitude is among LW'ers, only that it seems to exist.
I can't help but feel that this seems like something of a retraction of what I would refer to as "the informational meaningfulness" of your positional stance. It reduces an interesting statement to a trivial one.
What's that?
A second-order simulacrum is a symbol that doesn't actually represent anything. The concept of 'the number' is a representative symbol (as in, an abstraction) of all numbers -- but isn't actually itself a number; it is a second-order simulacrum. The proverbial average household with its whitewashed picket fence and that poor .5 of a kid (It's a damned shame what happened to poor .5!Timmy. People should be more careful around asphalt crackign equipment and rutting mules.) is a second-order simulacrum used as a 'conceptual placeholder' to make discussing households far simpler.
That depends: does it "really" count as "knowing" if they have to consciously divide tau by two first? ETA: actually, the opposite would make more sense to me, with Harry memorizing fewer digits of tau than Hermione memorized of pi.
No, actually there is a single answer to this. This is a reference to a fanfic/rationality text Yudkowsky wrote - which is excellent by the way. In his universe Harry has memorized around 6 digits of Pi and Hermione has memorized 100, because that is how many were in the back of her book.
Ah OK, I only read it once and it's been a while. It's never too late to retcon!
I hope so. Because if memorizing a big number that can be combined with a simple algorithm in order to calculate digits of Pi counts as memorizing Pi then I'm claiming I know 'infinity' digits.
Yes, that whole paragraph rubbed me the wrong way too. It seems Luke expects that every male should take charge of the relationship/dating/sex. That's not always how it works. It's not necessarily bad if a man can't lead, but it does become bad if he can't also follow. I.e., every person needs social skills regardless of gender.
Luke was working from the perspective of a man trying to improve his social skills in order to be contributing more equally to a potential relationship. The implication was not that women do not also need social skills, rather, for him to attract the attention of a woman (who has already caught his attention, presumably, with her social skills, body language, pheromones etc.,) he must have better social skills. From personal experience, I feel that most of the pronouns in that paragraph could easily be reversed. There are women with poor body language and poor social skills; if anything, this essay proves that, because he's not thinking about how to attract those women.
Swap two words around near the end?
Does the name of this) dog breed (the Pointer) strike you as outlandishly inappropriate?

Just say what you mean. Making a point obliquely in a way that requires readers to click a link is not very helpful.

"Pointer" dogs are not the only dogs that point, many others do or can be trained to. What's more, not every dog of that breed will grow up to be a hunting dog or ever point! Even those that hunt frequently will spend a very, very small portion of their lives pointing. They will spend far more time eating, sleeping, having four legs (most anyway, some will have accidents or birth defects) and most time of all having warm blood. We do not call the breed "warm-bloods" because this would not go far in distinguishing them among animals. We latch onto this tiny difference of action, which they spend a tiny portion of their lives doing, which is an even tinier amount more than other dogs do it, and name them by what they distinctly do. It's fine to discuss differences without spending every sentence on similarities. The similarities are the background assumption. It's entirely appropriate for Luke to speak in generalities with his group as a base case for comparison, and to in writing ignore exceptions and outliers as we know there are always some. He doesn't just mean "some women want", one could construct many, many different true sentences about what "some women want" and it would not be at all useful. We know men and women are of the same species and are similar. We are interested in differences, it is these differences that the males will fail to correctly model when they mentally model females' minds using their own, as if those minds were like exactly their own.
If Zeb had requested that he use the word "many" rather than "some" would you consider his point to be more valid?
Less invalid, but Luke did a fine Gricean job saying that the mean and mode and median woman differs from her counterpart man in the described ways.
I think you missed Zeb's point. E wasn't claiming that Luke was saying that no men do X; e was claiming that Luke was saying that all women do X, or at least that a large enough portion of women do X that the rest are a minority small enough to be safely ignored. That kind of statement is particularly annoying, above and beyond considerations of its truth value, because it tends to come across as judgmental: "Real" men/women/rationalists/whatever do X or Y or Z, so if I don't, does that mean something's wrong with me? Even if that's not the intention, enough messages like that tend to build up in the form of cached thoughts that can be very frustrating to deal with.
Yah; it comes across all too often like a retroactive attempt to patch an idea that might be compromised by bias. Especially because those minority of cases may be the real salient test of the idea -- if your theory is predicated on the idea that all X are Y, and along comes an X purporting to be a Z but not a Y, then conditional on the truth of this statement your theory is wrong. It's one thing to look at the failures of your original formulation and go, hmmm, clearly I missed something and need to patch or reject my theory; but in a context like this it's usually more, well, a rationalization -- "your counterexample doesn't apply because my factual error can be retconned as a previous, weak definition of the scope of my statement!"
I interpret Luke's claim as being about what women do more than men. It's an aid to model other minds that, along several axes, tend to systematically differ. I disagree with "ignored", I think that's inserting a charged intention into Luke's essay that is obviously not intended. Women (generally) want to have children more than men do (I think, which is sufficient for the example). I personally very much want to have children one day. I don't think that makes me "not a real man" or anything like that. It's obviously not. Fair enough.
Would you agree that Luke communicated that it's fairly safe to assume that all women X? That's a more diplomatic way of putting it, but to my way of thinking boils down to essentially the same message. This seems to miss the bulk of my point. If one leaves out the 'generally', and just says &qu